Quarantine costs for non-Erasmus students returning home not covered by State
Irish studying abroad outside EU scheme may be able to apply for waiver, Harris says
A €1 million plan is being worked on to ensure the cost of accommodation for Erasmus students who must enter hotel quarantine when returning to Ireland can be covered. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Irish students studying abroad outside the Erasmus programme will not be included in the €1 million plan that aims to cover the cost of mandatory hotel quarantine fees for students returning to Ireland.
It is estimated there are about 1,000 Irish students on Erasmus programmes across the European Union, with half in the five EU countries added to the mandatory quarantine list – Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said on Monday that many of the students are due to come back to the State on a staggered basis between now and August, and a €1 million plan was being worked on to ensure the cost of accommodation for those who must enter hotel quarantine can be covered.
The State is expected to pay hotel quarantine bills for these students on the basis that the Government funds all Erasmus programmes, including travel and some additional costs.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Claire Byrne programme on Tuesday, however, Mr Harris did not outline a plan to extend this scheme to non-Erasmus students studying abroad, for example, those in the United States.
Mr Harris said there is a waiver for upfront payment of hotel quarantine fees that can be granted on “compassionate grounds” by the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said he is in discussion with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, seeking to extend the waiver to those students.
“I don’t want the students to have to put their hand in their pocket,” he said, adding that the waiver extension is his “preferred mechanism” and “we will have clarity in the next few days”.
Mr Harris said on Tuesday it was his “very firm view” that fully vaccinated people who had negative PCR tests should not have to quarantine in a hotel.
“I really want to see the Government now expedite this issue of people who have been vaccinated,” he said.
“I don’t want to see a situation where our students who have been fully vaccinated in the US have to go into two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. That seems illogical to me.”
The Government has asked Health Protection Surveillance Centre to examine whether fully vaccinated people can be exempted from mandatory hotel quarantine, which Mr Harris said could benefit many students.