Government to spend 1 million euro to accommodate returning students in quarantine

Minister Harris has announced a 1 million euro plan to ensure students returning from Erasmus are not left “out of pocket”

The state has agreed to pay for the accommodation of roughly 550 students who are set to face mandatory quarantine upon their return to Ireland. 

Beginning in late March, Government arranged a scheme mandating a two-week hotel quarantine for anyone entering Ireland from a list of pre-determined “high-risk” countries, and starting from April 15, this list is set to expand to countries including the United States and several EU member states with high numbers of current Irish Erasmus students. 

These students expect to return from Erasmus programmes taking place in EU states recently added to the list of countries from which, upon return to Ireland, citizens must pay for a mandatory 2-week quarantine spent in a hotel. 

Concern had been raised in Higher Education following the addition of EU member states France, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg to hotel quarantine lists, due to the cost that would be required of students returning to Ireland from study-abroad programmes in those countries.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris is working on a €1 million plan to cover costs for mandatory quarantine for Erasmus students returning to Ireland.

A spokeswoman of Harris has said:

 “Minister Harris can confirm agreement has been reached to do this and further details will be provided over the coming days.”

There are currently 1000 Irish students on Erasmus, with roughly 550 on exchange in the member states that have been placed on the list due for mandatory quarantine. Many students are due back on a staggered basis between now and August.

The Minister has described his plan as a means for Government to “foot the bill” for students returning to Ireland. However, Minister Harris has said that any students who have been vaccinated fully and procure a negative PCR test should not have to enter mandatory quarantine, as to do so would be “illogical.”

Minister Harris has asked officials to engage with the Higher Education Authority to ensure that, as countries were added to the list of countries required to quarantine, students returning were not left “out of pocket.” He likewise expressed that students abroad should not panic and that he was working on a mechanism to cover these costs, ensuring that students returning did not have to “put a hand in their own pocket”.

Describing mandatory quarantine on RTÉ with Claire Byrne, Harris expressed that hotel quarantine was a short, sharp and blunt intervention against Covid-19 risks and not something that Government wants in place forever.

Whilst some of the 550 students returning may arrive before mandatory quarantines come into effect later this week, Harris has spoked of the possibility that others may return in the late summer “to a very different scenario.”

Jamie Cox

Jamie Cox is the Higher Education Correspondent for Trinity News, and a Senior Fresh Ancient and Medieval History and Culture student.