A mother has criticised Malta’s strict COVID quarantine rules after her nine-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son were sent to a hotel to isolate alone.

Evgenia Buyakevich’s children, who had been visiting their father in Russia, flew home to Malta on Sunday evening.

Vladimir and Liza, residents in Malta, had been given permission by the health authorities to travel back from Russia, which is one of more than 70 countries listed as dark red.

Travel from countries designated dark red is only allowed in exceptional circumstances and a 14-day quarantine is mandatory at a designated hotel, irrespective of whether the person is vaccinated.

But while this was outlined in an email seen by Times of Malta, their mother assumed that, because they were minors, they would be allowed to quarantine at home.

“Instead, my children were just taken to a hotel, without me being notified or giving my consent. They were on their own and unsupervised by any adults,” she said.

Help from social media

Buyakevich said that she only found out the children would not be returning home when her teenage son called her from the bus to the Sliema hotel.

She said she did not get help from the authorities when she complained that her children were left alone, so she turned to social media.

“When I uploaded my post and started digging, I realised that this has happened to other people too and I was offered a lot of help,” she said.

Among those who offered support were civil society group Human Health Alliance (HHA), one of the groups behind a court case against the Superintendent of Public Health for “disproportionate measures” to contain COVID-19.

On Monday evening, the mother was joined by around 20 people outside the Sliema Hotel by ST Hotels, rallying for the minors to be given adequate supervision in quarantine or for them to be quarantined in an adequate environment.

“It just was not right to have children in there without supervision,” she said, claiming that she had asked at that stage to be allowed to quarantine with her children.

She said a health authority official stationed at the hotel released the children hours after the protest started.

Speaking to Times of Malta, Vladimir said he took on the role of calming down his sister throughout the ordeal since she sensed something was wrong.

“She could hear my mother and I talk anxiously about things but I tried to keep her calm by telling her we would sort everything out,” he said.

Parents 'allowed to join children'

In a response on Wednesday, Malta Tourism Authority's facilitator Carina Dimech claimed the children's mother had been asked to quarantine with the children but had refused to do so.  

“The mother said she wanted the children to quarantine at home, despite us insisting the children needed supervision,"she said. "We asked her a number of other times to join them at the hotel but she kept on declining."

Dimech pointed out that Buyakevich needed to fill out a request form for the children to continue their quarantine at home. But in the meantime, they had to stay at the hotel, in line with the rules.

A Health Ministry spokesperson, said the parents or legal guardians of unsupervised minors who travel to Malta, are always allowed to join the minor children in the quarantine hotel.  However, it is up to the parent or legal guardian to accept or decline this possibility.

Asked why they had a change of heart and allowed the children to leave a day into their quarantine, the spokesperson did not reply

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