The UK government is being taken to court by angry returning travellers from southern Africa over a “fundamental breach of human rights” and the “outrageous” idea that “people must pay for their own imprisonment”, reports Daily Mail.
This follows the sudden and recent requirement that people returning to Britain from 10 countries in southern Africa must spend 10 full days in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
On Monday (6 December), London’s Owen Hancock and Emily Mennie were due to enter hotel quarantine on their return from a break in South Africa, when the country was added to the UK’s red list after concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant.
When they had finally managed to book a flight journey home, they were told hotel quarantine was full and they would have to reschedule their flights and PCR tests.
This added to their financial woes and they now face a £4,000 credit card bill on their return, adds the Daily Mail.
The couple have set up an online petition, attracting more than 40,000 signatures, calling on the government to fund hotel quarantine costs for travellers caught in the same situation when new measures are imposed at short notice.
Mennie said: “This ridiculous policy was re-introduced with no prior warning, no ability for us to get home, and then to add insult to injury we were unable to get a room. The government’s handling of this has been shambolic, which is evident from the number of people who have signed our petition.”
The couple is backing a case brought by law firm PGMBM who will seek permission, this Thursday (9 December) at the High Court for a judicial review of the country’s mandatory hotel quarantine policy. The firm will present evidence before a judge at a two-hour hearing to decide whether a review will be granted.
Tom Goodhead, managing partner at PGMBM, said that while they appreciated the seriousness of the Omicron variant, and efforts to tackle it, this “does not mean policies that constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights can escape the careful judicial examination they deserve”.
“Law-abiding citizens who have been double vaccinated and tested negative should be free from hotel quarantine. The idea that they need to pay for the privilege of their own imprisonment is outrageous. It is for this reason that we are taking the government to court. If we are successful, people like Owen and Emily could eventually be entitled to compensation.”
Another couple forced to use the quarantine scheme after spending their honeymoon in South Africa described their experience as “awful”, “disorganised” and the food as “inedible”.
A government spokesperson said: “We are determined to protect our country and the progress we have made thanks to the vaccine rollout. We make no apology for taking … introducing hotel quarantine. Every essential check has strengthened our defences against the risk of new coronavirus variants such as Omicron.”
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