Erasmus students have 5 days to decide whether to return home or face €1875 mandatory hotel quarantine

Image Credit: Dom Daly

Erasmus students face €1,875 mandatory hotel quarantine or early return home

UPDATE: Since publication, it has been revealed that the state plans on paying for mandatory hotel quarantine for students.  The most recent story is available here.

Students across the world must choose between returning home and cutting their Erasmus year short, or paying €1,875 for mandatory hotel quarantine following the Government decision to increase the mandatory quarantine list.

16 countries, including France, Italy, Luxembourg, Turkey, Canada and the US, have been added to the list for mandatory hotel quarantine. The new policy was officially announced on Saturday, April 10th and will take effect from Thursday the 15th of April, leaving students studying abroad with five days to make the decision. Failure to take part in mandatory hotel quarantine could result in a fine of up to €4,000 and one month in prison. 

850 Irish students are currently abroad for Erasmus. There has not yet been a specific statement making clear that students are exempt from paying the €1,875. However, Simon Harris Minister for Higher Education has said students should face quarantine, and further stated that the Coronavirus “doesn’t care” about the reasons people are travelling. Ireland South Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has said that the Government should cover the cost of quarantine for students returning from Erasmus. Kelleher issued the comments after Ógra Fianna Fáil requested support for Erasmus students, the organisation believes the sending institution should pay for the Erasmus student quarantine and receive a refund from the Department of Higher Education.

The University Observer spoke to Aoife Mitchell, a third year Law student who travelled home on Monday from Antwerp following the announcement Belgium had been added to the mandatory quarantine list. Answering why she chose to travel home early Mitchell said “I suppose there was many things I had to weigh up; the initial anxiety was over the money as two grand is a ridiculous amount that no student can pay comfortably. I also felt anxious about the prospect of having to pay my rent for Antwerp while not being there and having the EU grant revoked as a result of returning to Ireland during a situation that was largely out of my hands. Money was a huge factor in my decision initially.” 

Mitchell didn’t believe UCD or the Irish government would subsidise or pay for the quarantine, due to the lack of indication it would be paid for, the comments of Simon Harris and the suggestion of a UCD Erasmus coordinator that quarantine “was a cost students chose to incur when they left”. 

Mitchell further considered whether she would be comfortable spending two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine and concluded that “the psychological toll of staying in a hotel 20/30 minutes from my house and my loved ones would be quite distressing, I was worried about how my mental health would cope after spending most of my Erasmus quite isolated”, which Mitchell stated featured very few in-person classes, and tightened restrictions from March. Mitchell felt that having to be “completely isolated” in quarantine whilst sitting exams would be “distressing”.

Mitchell continued that she considered waiting to see if mandatory quarantine for Belgium would be lifted, but felt “the intensity of Ireland's existing lockdown and the idea that these countries were being added on the basis of variants/the number of cases” meant this would be unlikely, adding she would be “kicking myself if they do”. Mitchell also felt that if she stayed in Antwerp “the anxiety and stress of knowing I could possibly have to go through MHQ when I returned would have a detrimental effect on me & my Erasmus experience overall in the run up to coming home.”

The University Observer also spoke to Aoibhín Collins, a third year Law with French Law student currently studying in Toulouse, who decided to not yet return to Ireland. Outlining her reasons for choosing to stay in Toulouse, Collins stated “last summer I did not make a lot of money as I didn’t have a proper job, like lots of people”. Collins is currently sitting exams in Toulouse, and planned on returning to Ireland and finding a job after exams, however she outlined she “only had three days between the announcement [of France being added to the quarantine list] and [her] next exam”. Collins outlined that she must pass her Erasmus exams in order to progress to third year, and therefore “couldn’t just up and leave”, and will now “probably stay for the summer, or until the mandatory hotel quarantine is lifted”.