Vaccinated healthcare worker joins two others in challenging legality of quarantine

Emma Kelly may be allowed to leave hotel if she tests negative for Covid, High Court told

A file image of the  Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel where Emma Kelly has been in mandatory hotel quarantine since April 3rd. Photograph: Collins

A file image of the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel where Emma Kelly has been in mandatory hotel quarantine since April 3rd. Photograph: Collins

 

Two further challenges have been brought on behalf of persons who are undergoing mandatory quarantining at Dublin hotels.

In the first of the actions that came before the court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore heard that should Emma Kelly’s Covid test, which was taken on Tuesday morning, be negative then she would be allowed leave the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel in Dublin.

Ms Kelly has been in quarantine since she came home from Dubai, to assist her family as her father undergoes surgery for cancer, on April 3rd.

The outcome of Ms Kelly’s test is due to be known sometime around 8pm on Tuesday night, the court heard.

The judge, who said that there is no guarantee as to the outcome of the test, has directed an inquiry under Article 40.4.2 into Ms Kelly’s detention.

Ms Kelly’s action is due back before the court on Wednesday morning.

In addition, the judge also adjourned to Wednesday morning applications for similar inquiries brought on behalf of two other women currently quarantining at designated hotels.

Proceedings have been brought on behalf of Ballyfermot woman Philomena Meredith, who has been in quarantine since April 10th after returning from Dubai where she had been visiting an ill relative.

Ms Meredith, a healthcare worker, is represented by Conor Power SC. The court heard that she is fully vaccinated and has twice tested negative for Covid-19 in recent days.

She requires medicines to treat a number of health conditions she has, and had sought to have her quarantine reviewed.

Second application

The second application has been brought by South African native and Irish resident Charlene Heyns, who returned to Ireland from South Africa on April 9th.

Mr Power, for Ms Heyns, a healthcare worker based in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, said she had been in South Africa undergoing urgent medical treatment.

Counsel said she had a cardiac condition, and was distressed and concerned at having to quarantine in the hotel room by herself given her medical history.

Counsel said she had got her first shot of a two-dose vaccine and had twice tested negative for Covid-19 in recent days.

Mr Power said while they were separate actions it was both their cases that they were being detained, and that their detention was unlawful.

Counsel said that the grounds for bring the challenges included that the women’s constitutional rights had been breached, and that there was confusion over who was actually detaining the women.

There were also flaws in the system put in to individually review the cases of those subject to the mandatory quarantine that also rendered their detention unlawful, counsel added.

Their applications are all against hotel operators Tifco Ltd and Tifco Management Services (Ireland) Ltd, and the Minister for Health.

Both those applications came before the court on an ex-parte basis.

The judge, who adjourned the cases so the applications for inquiries can be heard in the presence of lawyers for the State, made a general observation about the financial implications for those taking such challenges.

The judge said that as a general observation, there was no guarantee that each and every application seeking an inquiry would be awarded their legal costs.

Legal costs

There was, he said, “no open goal to shoot into” and while some other applicants had been successful in their actions, others may not be and could be exposed to significant legal costs.

Ms Kelly’s application, which was first before Mr Justice O’Moore, on Monday night, for an inquiry also came before the court on Tuesday afternoon.

Micheál P O’Higgins SC, for Ms Kelly, urged the court to formally open an inquiry into her detention.

His client had hoped to be allowed leave quarantine after 10 days, upon the receipt of a negative Covid-19 test.

However, concerns about getting that test resulted in her seeking an inquiry into her detention, which it is argued breaches her constitutional rights. She further argues that given she was vaccinated and had tested negative for Covid-19, it was disproportionate to keep her in quarantine.

In reply, John Gallagher BL for the State said the Minister was aware of Ms Kelly’s personal circumstances and was sympathetic, but had argued that the inquiry was unnecessary.

The Minister had also directed that the analysis of Ms Kelly’s most recent test sample be expedited, counsel said.

It was not expected to have a result until 8pm on Tuesday, counsel added.

Counsel said that while Ms Kelly has sought an inquiry, it could very well be the case that she could be released before any legal hearing into the legality of her detention was determined.

Mr Justice O’Moore, who noted that the State accepted that Ms Kelly had been subject to a form of detention, said on Tuesday he was prepared to order the inquiry and adjourned the matter to Wednesday morning.

There was no guarantee that her result would be negative, the judge said, adding that issues had been raised in the action that needed to heard by the court.