Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has 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.
To force them to do so “seems illogical,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Mandatory hotel quarantine was a “short, sharp, blunt instrument” and the Government was committed to discussing the matter with health experts, he said.
When asked about the National Immunisation Advisory Committee's (Niac) decision to pause the use of AstraZeneca for people under the age of 60, Mr Harris said he was not qualified to “second guess” Niac, but there was no getting away from the fact the decision will cause upheaval.
However, he was encouraged by comments from deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and Professor Karina Butler, chair of Niac, that the decision will not have an impact on the long term rollout of the vaccine.
It was always important for concerns to be acted upon and the caution exercised by Niac should give people confidence, Mr Harris added.
If AstraZeneca was the only vaccine available, the decision to pause its use would not have been made, he said. “We have to use the supply we have to best effect.”
Mr Harris also said he was “really excited” about the introduction of rapid antigen testing in a pilot scheme in a number of universities, adding it was his intention to “dramatically increase” the on-campus attendance of third level students from the new academic year commencing in September/October.
Rapid testing was a “potential game changer” and could lead to outdoor gatherings. It made sense for his department to be involved as research was also part of his brief. The results could benefit the whole country, he added.