Durban COVID-19 patients to seek court order over quarantine

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Four COVID-19 positive patients, among the first group identified as carrying the virus upon their return from Italy, are demanding to be released from quarantine in Durban‘s Addington Hospital. On Friday, their attorney Mark Futcher said his clients would seek the court’s intervention this week if they were not released, reports TimesLIVE. But KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu hit back with legal actions threats, too, saying they will not be “held to ransom by any individuals who appear to seek special treatment”.

Futcher said his clients have been asymptomatic for a number of days and wanted to be released to self-isolate in their homes. One of the men in the group that returned from Italy, Patient Zero, who was the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, has yet to test positive but has been allowed to be released from Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, they said, arguing there has been inconsistency in how health authorities were dealing with the issue.

Futcher said: “… every day they are told by the doctors and experts that they can be released. And then they are not.” One of the patients, a banking executive, said: ‘We have not pushed any request to transfer to a private hospital. So, this is not about us being unhappy with the facility. This is about us being kept in a hospital ward for 11 days using state resources that are not required. We have been asking to be released to self-isolate at home, which the doctors and NICD are in agreement with, but the MEC for Health in KZN is not allowing it without giving us a reason. However, there are over 100 infected people in South Africa currently self-isolating at home, hence we are asking for consistency.”

Futcher said they have been told they need to test negative before they will be released. One of his clients had tested negative initially but was still being kept in isolation.

The patients have undertaken to be released into police custody for the secure conveyance to their respective homes, and to self-isolate until such time as they test negative or are instructed differently by the NICD and/or KZN Health, says the TimesLIVE report. “They will also present themselves at the nominated facility should they develop symptoms once again.”

Simelane-Zulu said: “The National Health Act makes it very clear that if any person who is a clinical or laboratory confirmed case, refuses to be tested, treated, isolated or quarantined, the head of a provincial health department is empowered to approach the High Court for an appropriate court order to force the person to comply. If we get pushed, we will not hesitate to go the legal route to safeguard the interests of the public.”

Futcher, from Futcher and Poppesqou Attorneys, says they have written a letter to the hospital and to the MEC’s office, demanding their release. News24 quotes him as saying two people in the Addington Hospital quarantine group have tested negative. He said he was told that officials from the NICD recommended their release to self-quarantine at home.

According to regulations gazetted, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national disaster last Sunday, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, or is suspected of having COVID-19 or who has been in contact with someone who is infected with the virus, may not refuse to be admitted for a medical examination or into a medical facility.

They also cannot refuse treatment or quarantine in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. A warrant in this regard can be issued by a magistrate. Gauteng Health has already taken this route after a mother and daughter refused to be quarantined after testing positive for the virus.

Full report in The Times

Full News24 report

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