Rome-Millions of Italian children returned to the classroom on Monday as most schools reopened more than six months after they were closed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Although some Italian schools opened earlier this month, roughly 5.6 million students from a total of eight million went back to school on Monday, confronting a new reality of face masks, temperature checks and social distancing.

“It’s going alright. We started with a ceremony this morning to mark the start of a new beginning for us,” Diana Guerani, principal at Rome’s Luigi Einaudi technical high school, told AFP.

Her first group of students arrived for limited classes lasting for three hours only on Monday and she admitted the school was “very worried”, despite installing a temperature-checking camera and enforcing mask-wearing. 

“The first day was OK. But it’s tough to talk while wearing a mask,” said 14-year-old Angelica Lisanti. “After six months without school, I was happy to see my friends again,” Michela Horan, 13, told AFP outside the school near to Saint Peter’s Basilica. “The whole thing however is really a bit scary.”   

Italy was one of the first in Europe to be hit by the pandemic, which has now officially killed over 35,500 people out of a total of 280,000 cases.