Professor criticises ‘dehumanising’ nature of mandatory hotel quarantine

Lokesh Joshi says he has felt like an ‘inmate’ since returning from India after his mother’s death

Dr Lokesh Joshi described being made feel like an ‘inmate’ since entering the mandatory hotel quarantine system after returning from India following the death of his mother from Covid-19.

Dr Lokesh Joshi described being made feel like an ‘inmate’ since entering the mandatory hotel quarantine system after returning from India following the death of his mother from Covid-19.

 

A leading Irish scientist currently in mandatory hotel quarantine in Dublin has criticised the “dehumanising” nature of the experience.

“There are ways of quarantine but the whole compassion and care aspect is missing,” said Lokesh Joshi, the Stokes Professor of Glycosciences at NUI Galway.

Dr Joshi described being made feel like an “inmate” since entering the quarantine system after returning from India following the death of his mother from Covid-19.

His complaints include being referred to by his room number rather than his name by staff and a being met by the Army instead of civilians at the airport.

“It’s these small things that add to the trauma,” he said.

Dr Joshi, who is due to be released on Friday, told The Irish Times he accepts the need for mandatory hotel quarantine, but does not understand why it cannot be done with more compassion.

“We are made feel like we have done something wrong,” he said. “From landing in Dublin and being taken to the hotel, not a single person gives you a smile.”

Both the professor’s parents caught Covid-19 in India in April. He was initially not allowed to travel to see his mother after she was admitted to intensive care as he had not been vaccinated.

A doctor then agreed to give Dr Joshi one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine “on compassionate grounds” to allow him travel. By this time his mother had died.

Detention facility

He said the quarantine hotel has been converted into “almost a detention facility”, with guests receiving a daily phone call to check if they are ok “but it feels like ticking a box”.

Dr Joshi said guests are allowed a maximum of three 10 minute periods in a small outdoor space per day. While being taken for their exercise they are referred to by their room number over the radio instead of their name, he said. He compared the experience to the film The Shawshank Redemption.

Staff also appear reticent to engage in conversation. “I don’t blame them. I don’t think they are enjoying it either. I think they have been advised to maintain a distance and not get too friendly.”

Dr Joshi said consideration should be given to aftercare for people leaving mandatory hotel quarantine “with the depression, loss of motivation, self-confidence and self-esteem problems that may follow us home”.

Lasting effect

He said the “process has been dehumanising in a way that I had not expected and this period of solitary confinement after a traumatic trip aboard will have a lasting effect on me”.

“The impact on less resilient people, those with mental health problems, those who are claustrophobic or who find long periods alone difficult, or with health problems exacerbated by confinement for two weeks alone is likely to be significant,” he said.

Travellers coming to Ireland from a list of 51 countries with high infection rates or prevalence of variants of concerns are obliged to enter hotel quarantine.

About 5,000 people have gone through the system in the last three months with some 170 cases of Covid-19 had been detected within it.