Quarantine lodges might contravene our human rights, says lawyer

An international law firm has suggested that quarantine hotels could contravene our basic human rights, under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Government is considering tightening border measures, with one possibility being mandatory quarantine in hotels for all arrivals – including UK residents.

Other countries, including Australia, Thailand and New Zealand, have already brought in similar measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

However, international law firm PGMBM has suggested that enforced quarantine constitutes a breach of our human rights. 

Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person, except in very specific circumstances.

Such circumstances include “the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases.”

But law firm PGMBM argues that the suggested quarantine – which would be enforced regardless of whether the person is known to have Covid-19 or not, and therefore whether they are infectious – could potentially breach Article 5 of the ECHR.

Tom Goodhead, Barrister and Managing Partner of PGMBM, said: “These proposals of a blanket imposition of hotel quarantine, at travellers’ own expense, raise fundamental questions about the denial of liberty of those subjected to it. 

“Article 5 of the ECHR specifically states that no one shall be unduly deprived of their liberty. Whilst there is a provision that may allow the denial of that liberty to prevent the spread of infectious disease, under these proposals inbound travellers would be detained even if they did not test positive for Covid-19.

“Some European states have already grappled with the issue and decided that detention of people without confirmed infection may not be covered by the provisions of Article 5.

“Cabinet ministers are now debating whether to funnel people off airplanes straight into enforced quarantine without evidence that those people are carrying any variant of Covid-19. There is certainly a very credible perspective that this could amount to illegal detention, thus contravening the ECHR.”

The Government’s Covid-O committee is due to meet today to discuss tightening border measures, as Boris Johnson comes under increasing pressure to prevent new variants of Covid-19 entering the UK. 

On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the hotel plans were being “actively worked on”, saying: “We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad.”

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock are understood to be pushing for a mandatory quarantine in Government-approved accommodation for all arrivals. There is a chance, however, that the Government will opt to quarantine those coming in from ‘high-risk’ destinations with known outbreaks of new variants, such as South Africa and Brazil.

The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel for an adult is £1,692 in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand – three countries that have introduced the measure so far.

Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said: “Such a move would destroy confidence to book and would lead to a collapse in booking revenues for airlines, tour operators and many other travel specialists. As well as a collapse in visitor numbers spending money inbound.

“Boris Johnson needs to give a timeline for when they will be removed and be upfront on the economic impact on the aviation and travel sector.”

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