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COVID-19 - The legal basis for quarantine

On the 15th February 2021, the UK government introduced stricter measures and enforcement rules (including fixed penalty notices to imprisonment) for quarantined passengers. These regulations tightened the measures already in place, such as refusing entry to people travelling from ‘red list’ countries, except for British or Irish nationals, or people with UK residency rights.

Anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous ten days is now (at the time of writing) required to purchase a ‘quarantine package’, which can be booked through a dedicated online portal. It includes assigned government transportation, food and drinks, accommodation in a government-approved facility, security, welfare and testing, while the charge for a single adult is £1,750.

The Health Protection Regulations 2020

The UK’s tighter travel restrictions are intended to reduce the introduction and transmission of new COVID-19 variants from red list countries; however, the tough measures have sparked the debate as to whether the legislation is too robust, especially with quarantining being a difficult, frustrating and lonely experience for many. If we look back at the government regulations which came into place on the 8th June 2020, the 14-day quarantine rule was introduced through a set of laws called The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) Regulations 2020. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their version of these regulations, yet there are many similarities. The laws were applied to two categories of cases:

  1. Cases involving people whom the Secretary of State or a registered public health consultant have reasonable grounds to believe may be contaminated with coronavirus. They must also consider the risk that these people might infect or contaminate others (domestic cases).
  2. Cases concerning those who have arrived in England on an aircraft, ship or train from outside the UK, whom the Secretary of State or a registered public health consultant have reasonable grounds to believe left an infected area within 14 days immediately before arriving in England (overseas cases).

The regulations set out that people in both categories of cases can be detained for screening, with the ability to keep individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.

Therefore, any failure to cooperate with public health professionals will break the regulations, potentially resulting in enforced detention. Where necessary, a police officer can use reasonable force and transport individuals (including children) to either a hospital, their home or another suitable facility. Prosecutions are dealt with in the Magistrates Court and can lead to a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.

If you’re concerned about these regulations or the most recent measures introduced by the government and require professional legal advice, Noble Solicitors is on hand to help. We specialise in helping people and businesses across the UK. To speak to our team, please call 07000 81 82 83.

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