A severely disabled child who was refused an exemption from hotel quarantine has been allowed to return home to complete their period of self-isolation, following an urgent application for an injunction by Bindmans LLP.
Under emergency Coronavirus legislation, individuals entering the United Kingdom from ‘red list’ countries are required to enter hotel quarantine (also known as the ‘Managed Quarantine’ system) on arrival, unless they are exempt. Upon landing at the airport, passengers are transferred by coach to a hotel, where they are required to remain for at least 10 days. They are confined entirely to their rooms, with security guards outside their doors. Reports suggest that the windows are sealed shut, and residents are allowed only 15 minutes of exercise per day, if that.
There are a number of exemptions, including for people arriving to attend boarding school and people who are coming for G7 meetings. It is also possible to apply to the government for an exemption on medical grounds, where:
- A person is vulnerable as a result of a severe medical or health condition
- They would not receive appropriate support during the hotel quarantine
- Their condition is likely to be severely, detrimentally impacted by the requirement to self-isolate in hotel quarantine
Our client’s parents applied for an exemption on this basis before entering the UK, providing evidence of their child’s severe and complex needs. Having received no decision, they had to enter hotel quarantine on arrival. Their application was then refused without reasoning.
Bindmans LLP made a request for urgent reconsideration, providing further evidence from the child’s treating psychologist explaining why their particular severe needs could not be met in hotel quarantine, and that it would likely lead to a severe deterioration in their condition. As our client’s condition was rapidly deteriorating, it became necessary to make an urgent application to the High Court for an order permitting them to return home to complete the quarantine.
An application was made over the weekend. A duty High Court judge ruled that there was a serious issue to be tried and that the Claimant had reasonable prospects of success in showing the Department of Health’s decision was unlawful. The Secretary of State was given until midday the following day to obtain independent medical evidence. In the event, he did not do so. He conceded 15 minutes before the further hearing, and three days after the medical evidence was provided to him, that the Claimant could complete the rest of his period of self-isolation at home.
Our client was represented by Theodora Middleton and Grace Benton of Bindmans LLP, who instructed Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers.
Theodora Middleton, solicitor in our Public Law and Human Rights team, said:
We are pleased that our client has now been permitted to return home. However, it is deeply concerning that highly vulnerable individuals such as our client are being subjected to the hotel quarantine system with little apparent consideration of how it will impact them. Our client and our client’s parents have endured unacceptable suffering, and potentially lasting damage, during the period that they were required to remain at the hotel, and recently updated exemption guidelines set a bar for eligibility for exemption that goes beyond the law.
The importance of maintaining effective systems to protect the public from the risks of Coronavirus is clear. However, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must urgently ensure that his newly created and draconian powers to curtail liberty are being exercised with utmost care and scrutiny, to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not being unlawfully detained in facilities which may have serious and lasting impacts on them.