Three family members, forced to quarantine for 14 days at a hotel upon their return to Malta from a ‘dark red’ destination, say such a "draconian" measure by the superintendent of public health breaches their fundamental rights.

The three relatives, escorted to the hotel straightaway upon their arrival from Tunisia and detained to date in spite of twice testing negative to COVID-19, are claiming their detention is “illegal, excessive and unjustified".

The two women and a minor child have been cooped up in a 20-metre square room, with no cleaning facilities, no change of laundry and without being allowed to leave their confined space, even if only to stretch their legs along the corridor outside.

They are also under police watch.

Their situation is worse than “that of prisoners or persons living in detention centres”, said their lawyer, Andre Borg, in a judicial protest filed on Monday before the First Hall, Civil Court against Prof. Charmaine Gauci.

Such detention, a direct result of a unilateral decision taken by the superintendent of public health, breaches the persons’ right to life, personal freedom and safety, enjoyment of personal property and protection at law, the lawyer said.

Rather than being allowed to quarantine in the much more comfortable conditions of their own home, the protesting parties, who have long resided in Malta, are being subjected to such “degrading conditions” and are being forced to pay a daily fee of €100 to boot. 

It is ironic this is happening now that the community has reached herd immunity. Also, the measures enforced are stricter and harsher than those applicable a year ago when the COVID-19 situation was not under control. 

They are also under police watch

Such mandatory hotel quarantine is not only excessive and disproportionate but also implies a step backwards in the country’s fight against the pandemic. 

They also protested against the “permanent and devastating” effect that such a measure is causing upon the mental health of those affected, who find themselves divested of their dignity, forced into unlawful detention under the superintendent’s orders. 

The superintendent of public health must safeguard public health rather than jeopardise it through such illogical decisions, argued the lawyer, especially in light of the alarming rise in mental health cases recently flagged by various institutions. 

Malta only EU state imposing such a measure

Malta is the only EU member state imposing such mandatory hotel quarantine.

A similar measure was enforced in Ireland but only in respect of passengers travelling from South America or lacking an EU COVID certificate.

Moreover, the “extreme severity” of such measure is not supported by any scientific report, argued the lawyer, pointing out further that the right to personal freedom is “supreme” and any restriction may only be justified as a “measure of last resort” in case of a public emergency, which is not the case. 

The declaration of a state of emergency issued last year was subsequently revoked and the superintendent’s powers were restricted. 

The protesting parties therefore called upon Gauci to cease from such “unilateral and militant stance”, to immediately revoke her order and refund payments made for their mandatory hotel quarantine. 

Moreover, they reserved the right to further legal action for personal and moral damages. 

Lawyer Andre Borg signed the judicial protest. 

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