Erasmus students will not have to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine on their return to Ireland, it has been confirmed.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said the Government will pay the costs for Erasmus students to quarantine at a hotel, adding that the state has a “duty” to help bring them home.
There are 1,026 Irish students abroad on Erasmus programmes, according to the latest Higher Education Authority figures.
About half – 556 students – are in the five EU countries on the Government’s mandatory hotel quarantine list – Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg.
It is expected it will cost about a million euro for the state to cover the costs.
Mr Harris urged students to complete their Erasmus placement and enjoy it as much as possible despite Covid-19 restrictions.
He said: “My message to students on Erasmus is to complete their Erasmus placement, to enjoy it as much as you can during a pandemic, and if you need to use mandatory quarantine measures the state will pay those costs.
“It has been Government policy to encourage Irish students to participate in Erasmus+. These study periods are an integral part of students’ learning outcomes in Irish universities.
“We have a duty to help bring them home.”
Mr Harris told RTE’s Today With Claire Byrne programme on Tuesday he did not have exact details about how students will apply for the costs to be covered but it would most likely be through a waiver.
“I don’t want students to have to put their hands in their pockets,” he said.
The Fine Gael minister also said it was his “very firm view” that people who were fully vaccinated and had negative PCR tests should not have to quarantine in a hotel on their arrival in the country.
“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 are coming back from the United States, 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 officials to examine whether fully vaccinated people can be exempted from mandatory hotel quarantine.