We are frequently asked about the legalities of the hotel quarantine regulations and on what grounds we are seeking the review, which we have outlined below.
The imposition of charges breaches International Law
Our first ground for seeking a judicial review against the Government’s hotel quarantine policy is that we believe that the imposition of charges for quarantining in a government-managed hotel is unlawful because it is a direct breach of the UK’s international obligations.
The International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) is an international legal instrument that is binding on all World Health Organisation (WHO) Member States. The United Kingdom is a member of the WHO and as such the IHR 2005 is binding on the United Kingdom.
Article 40 of the IHR 2005 directly prohibits the imposition of charges for quarantine. Therefore, by imposing charges on travellers for quarantining, the British Government is in direct breach of Article 40.
The charges are unaffordable
Our second ground for seeking judicial review is that the fees charged to travellers to quarantine in a government-managed hotel are unaffordable.
Requiring travellers to pay an upfront cost of £1,750 per person to quarantine in a government-managed hotel will in some cases increase the cost of returning home by up to 443%. For those travelling with children or those who are required to quarantine for longer than the 10 days (because they receive a positive Covid-19 test result), the cost will be even higher.
The effect is therefore to:
1) Prevent British and Irish citizens and residents from returning home and exercising their right of abode
2) Prevent persons travelling to see family and, in some cases, to prevent family units from being together
3) Cause unnecessary distress and worry for travellers needing to return home, but who have no prospect of paying for the charges.
Lack of adequate exemptions
We also believe there is an absence of any adequate exemptions for those from no/low-income backgrounds, and no exemptions to assist those who are unable to pay the excessive upfront fee for any other reasons.
The only exemption introduced by the Government is narrow and unhelpful. The charging policy allows those receiving income-related benefits to defer the payment of the quarantine charges so that instead of paying the fee upfront before travelling, travellers can spread the cost over 12 months.
We believe this is inadequate for numerous reasons. Firstly, this exemption does not assist those who do not receive income-related benefits but who are nonetheless unable to afford the hotel quarantine charges, such as people who are retired or who are on a low income.
Secondly, even for those that do qualify for the exemption, in many instances, even spreading the cost over 12 months is unaffordable.
Examples of Hotel Quarantine exemptions around the world
Finally, it becomes clear just how lacking the Government’s charging policy is when compared with the exemptions and financial assistance made available in other countries with similar hotel quarantine policies.
For instance, in Queensland, Australia, citizens and permanent residents experiencing financial hardship can apply to have all or part of their quarantine fees waived.
Similarly, in New Zealand, individuals who are returning permanently are not required to pay for quarantine and for those who are subject to quarantine charges, fee waivers may be available in cases of undue financial hardship and other special circumstances.
Moreover, Scotland is currently also working through the details of a Managed Isolation Welfare Fund, which will be launched for individuals who cannot afford the quarantine fees.
One size doesn’t fit all
Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the “one size fits all” charging policy the British Government has put in place has far-reaching implications.
By imposing the same charges without exceptions or exemptions on all travellers returning from a red-list country, the individual financial circumstances of individual travellers are ignored.
Given the above, we have requested that the Government remove all the charges for hotel quarantine.