Woman in mandatory quarantine is being held lawfully, High Court rules

Lawyers for Charlene Heyns said her medical circumstance was similar to being fully vaccinated

A file image of the  Dublin Airport Crowne Plaza, one of the mandatory quarantine hotels. Photograph: Collins

A file image of the Dublin Airport Crowne Plaza, one of the mandatory quarantine hotels. Photograph: Collins

 

The High Court has ruled that a South African woman who sought to be released from mandatory hotel quarantine is being detained lawfully.

Charlene Heyns is a South African native and Irish resident, who returned to Ireland on April 9th last after undergoing urgent medical treatment in South Africa.

The High Court ruled on Saturday that Ms Heyns was being detained in accordance with law. The challenged aspects of the Health Act 1947 were “not valid” having regard to the provisions of the Constitution, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said.

Ms Heyns is due to be released from quarantine on Monday, April 19th. Mr Justice Brian O’Moore listed proceedings for April 23rd to deal with any outstanding matters.

Ms Heyns, a healthcare worker based in Letterkenny, Co Donegal has a cardiac condition and has received her first shot of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine and has twice tested negative for Covid-19 in recent days.

Counsel for Ms Heyns, Conor Power SC, told the court it should also consider that Ms Heyns had previously contracted Covid-19 in late December.

Her lawyers said her individual medical circumstances were similar to being fully vaccinated and argued the categories for hotel quarantine were too broad.

“Either the Minister has to tweak the categories or the manner of review when a person is already subject to mandatory hotel quarantine has to be improved on,” Mr Power said.

Michael Cush SC for the State said the quarantine scheme was a proportionate response given the risk to public health.

Mr Cush said Ms Heyns’ right to liberty was competing with the rights of citizens who had chosen not to travel abroad, who had the right to life and to not be exposed to infection from which they might become seriously ill or die.

The evidence on previous infection and whether that gives a person immunity was being considered but there was no decision yet, Mr Cush said.

There was concern around whether the person may have been infected with a new variant such as the South African or UK variant, he said.

Ms Heyns’ lawyers told the court she had received an email response from the Department of Health prior to her leaving the country stating that medical appointments were sufficient reason for travel at the time.

The requirement for mandatory hotel quarantine was imposed while she was away and when she was returning to her home. Her lawyers said this must impact Ms Heyns’ element of choice and liberty.

The court heard that some people had been released early from mandatory hotel quarantine after reviews into their individual circumstances. Of 319 appeals against quarantine made since the scheme was introduced last month, 22 appeals resulted in people being released from quarantine, Mr Cush said.