By Melissa Butz
Italy is planning to close all schools in the country, as a preventative measure for the coronavirus. It leaves nearly nine million students and just over 800 thousand teachers out of work.
The shutdown comes as at least 79 Italians have died from the outbreak, with more than 2,500 confirmed infections across the country.
The nationwide closure of the schools until at least March 15 is on the heels of a week’s long lock-down in three northern Italian cities, where the disease is most rampant.
Preschools to universities are included in the closures across Italy. Many pontifical universities, including the Gregorian in Rome, say they will follow the national recommendations, and many U.S. study abroad programs in Italy are sending students back.
“I think a preventative action is good because you never know what can happen,” said one student.
“Our professors haven’t told us anything yet because today they were all giving out exams and were busy,” added another.
Since the coronavirus has struck, Italy has become nearly deserted, with dwindling tourism and rising fear.
The Vatican is also taking precautionary measures, rescheduling two events in March and May until later this fall.
The pontiff was supposed to be in south Rome on his spiritual exercises this week, but is following from his home due to his cold. That’s why today, there was no General Audience either, since this week’s audience was eliminated because of the Lenten retreat.
Pope Francis plans on picking up his normal schedule next week, while the school shutdown could last longer than the planned two weeks if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.