Third-level students to receive free Covid-19 antigen tests

Simon Harris to announce €9m fund which will see colleges provide students with tests

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the €9m  fund will be accompanied by an awareness campaign around antigen tests and their appropriate use. Photograph: iStock

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the €9m fund will be accompanied by an awareness campaign around antigen tests and their appropriate use. Photograph: iStock

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The Government is to provide free Covid-19 antigen tests for third-level students in a bid to encourage their use on college campuses.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris will today announce a €9 million fund for further and higher education institutions to provide tests to students.

Last week the Government abandoned plans to subsidise the tests to bring the price down to €2-€3 each, saying many retail outlets had already reduced the price to this level.

However, today’s move will seek to make the tests completely free to students. It is intended they will be distributed by the colleges, which can apply to the Department of Higher Education to fund their purchase.

Mr Harris met Prof Mary Horgan, chair of the Government’s expert group on antigen testing, as well as public health consultant and National Public Health Emergency Team member Dr Breda Smyth on Friday to discuss the move.

In a statement released last night, Mr Harris said: “The fund is there to buy antigen tests and provide them to students for free, and it’s up to institutions how they decide to do that over the coming months.”

Awareness campaign

Mr Harris said the sector had been using antigen tests for some time “and it has been an additional and helpful measure for students and staff”, with 400,000 students returning to campus in recent months.

“I have met with the experts who see benefit in expanding use and I have heard from students who have asked for assistance with the cost. I am responding to this with a €9 million fund which will be available for all colleges in Ireland to draw down from to provide free antigen tests on college campuses,” he said.

The fund will be accompanied by an awareness campaign around antigen tests and their appropriate use, he added.

The issue has been a controversial topic between Government and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan who opposed moves to subsidise the costs of the tests, citing fears they would be used incorrectly by many.

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