Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has said that college students will return to campus this September, even in the event that not all of them are vaccinated against Covid-19.
Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland today, Harris claimed that “a very significant majority” of students would be vaccinated by September, and that the government’s re-opening plan “is not dependent on every single individual being vaccinated.”
Harris went on to say that “we didn’t say we’d only open the supermarkets if everyone in the supermarket was vaccinated.”
The government released a plan for the upcoming college semester on June 15. In an announcement at the time, Harris said that “college experience will return for everyone from September” and activities will “overwhelmingly be on-site from the new academic year.”
Harris’ appearance on Morning Ireland today precedes a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) meeting, scheduled for this afternoon, which will discuss whether further easing of restrictions, including allowing indoor dining, will take place on July 5.
This morning, Harris also acknowledged the danger of the new Delta variant of Covid-19, saying: “We now know it’s much more contagious,” and that “we have to be really really careful that we don’t go backwards here.”
However, he acknowledged that “the vaccines are working against this variant.”
In an email to all students on Friday, John Coman, Secretary to College, wrote that according to Damien McCallion of the HSE, “third level students may be offered their first Covid-19 vaccines early this autumn before the new academic year would begin for many of them.”
The email went on to say that free weekly screening tests for Covid-19 are currently available to on-campus residents and those living in Trinity Hall.
Third-level institutions have been shut for the majority of on-site activity since March 2020. In-person activity has been restricted to essential lab work, research and library access.