Third-level students are likely to be back on university and college campuses next September, according to the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris.
Plans were already in place for such a possibility, the Minister told Newstalk Breakfast.
The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine programme means “we will be in a different place.”
However, the former Minister for Health warned that the virus could “tear up the best laid plans” and that there was no exact science yet of how the virus would behave.
The Government was going to have to talk to people about the best way out of the pandemic, he said.
Mr Harris said he thought there would be a “slight easing” of restrictions in April, but that it would first be necessary to see what the situation looked like as the vaccine programme was rolled out in May and June.
“The 5k rule is driving people absolutely bonkers,” he said.
Mr Harris said he was concerned about the current figures, but was also optimistic. While the number of hospitalisations and those in intensive care was reducing, there was still a need for “all of us” to adhere to the guidelines.
“We’re heading into summer when we can see more hope,” he said.
He reiterated that there will be dividends from the vaccination programme.