Britain's new requirement for travellers to the UK from 22 countries to quarantine in hotels for 10 days could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), an international law firm has said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the measures on Wednesday, telling Parliament that the government "will introduce a new managed isolation process in hotels for those who cannot be refused entry, including those arriving home, from countries where we have already imposed an international travel ban."
Under the new rules, Patel said inbound travellers from countries on the travel ban list will be required to isolate in hotels "for 10 days without exception."
'Blanket Imposition'"These proposals of a blanket imposition of hotel quarantine ... raise fundamental questions about the denial of liberty of those subjected to it,” Tom Goodhead, barrister and managing partner at PGMBM, said according to The Telegraph.
“Article 5 of the ECHR specifically states that no one shall be unduly deprived of their liberty,” Goodhead said on Tuesday.
“Whilst there is a provision that may allow the denial of that liberty to prevent the spread of infectious disease, under these proposals inbound travelers would be detained even if they did not test positive for Covid-19.”
He also said that some European states have already considered, but thought better of, imposing such measures because “detention of people without confirmed infection may not be covered by the provisions of Article 5.”
Talking about enforced quarantine of people "without evidence that those people are carrying any variant of Covid-19,” he said that “there is certainly a very credible perspective that this could amount to illegal detention, thus contravening the ECHR.”
Hotels Ready?Rob Paterson, CEO of Best Western Hotels GB, told the BBC's "Breakfast" program on Tuesday that having provided overflow discharge beds for the National Health Service (NHS), many of his company’s hotels were already set up for a “contactless customer experience” at check-in and “an escorted process into the hotel.”
“You’re in the room, and the detail would explain once you are in the room that you can’t leave,” he said.
“There will be CCTV or security to ensure that’s the case,” he added.
He also said that three meals a day would be delivered outside the room along with bed linen, which quarantined travelers would have to change themselves, before putting their used linen into a sealed bag and placing it outside their door.
Patel said the details of which hotels would be used and how the quarantine would be administered were currently under discussion.
He also said that curbs are justifiable if they result in the end of lockdowns.
Travel RestrictionsBritain closed its travel corridors from Jan. 15 and banned travel from South America and its commonly used transit point, Portugal, on the same day.
This followed concerns about a new virus strain that emerged in Brazil, which scientists said had similarities to a strain that originated in South Africa, from where travel had already been banned on Jan. 9. Another strain was first identified in southeast England.
All three caused worry over how effective vaccines, seen as key to Britain's way out of lockdown, would be against them.
The travel bans do not apply to British or Irish nationals or people with UK residency rights, so some travelers from high-risk locations are still potentially entering the country.
Patel said the Department of Health and Social Care will set out further details of the new hotel-based quarantine measures next week.