British couple facing £4,000 hotel quarantine bill on return from South Africa launch legal action against the Government branding it a ‘fundamental breach of their human rights’ as policy was introduced AFTER they left UK
- A legal challenge arguing Covid hotel quarantine is a ‘fundamental breach of human rights’ has been mounted
- Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, were due to enter hotel quarantine on Monday after their return from a break in South Africa
- They were ‘left stranded’ when the country was added to the UK’s red list due to the Omicron variant
- The couple have set up an online petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures
A legal challenge that argues coronavirus hotel quarantine is a ‘fundamental breach of human rights’ has been mounted this week.
People entering the UK from 10 countries in southern Africa must currently spend 10 full days in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
On Monday, Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, were due to enter hotel quarantine on their return from a break in South Africa.
They say they were left stranded when the country was added to the UK’s red list due to concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, from Tooting, London, were ‘frustrated’ when flights were banned and Heathrow’s quarantine hotel was fully booked
Mr Hancock and Mrs Mennie, who was born in South Africa, were visiting her family for the first time since Covid struck nearly two years ago
The number of Covid infections per day in South Africa has spiked again over the weekend and is up 289 per cent on last week
The couple, from Tooting, London, were visiting Ms Mennie’s family for the first time since the start of the pandemic when their travel plans were thrown into chaos.
When they finally managed to book their journey home, they were told hotel quarantine was full and they would have to reschedule their flights and PCR tests.
They say this added to their financial woes and are now facing a £4,000 credit card bill on their return.
The couple have set up an online petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, calling on the Government to fund hotel quarantine costs for travellers caught in the same situation when new measures are imposed at short notice.
Ms Mennie said: ‘This ridiculous and unjustifiable policy was re-introduced with no prior warning, no ability for us to get home, and then to add insult to injury we were unable to get a room.
‘The Government’s handling of this has been shambolic and that’s evident from the number of people who have signed our petition and call on the Prime Minister to rethink.’
Data in South Africa shows the R-rate has soared to over three per cent in recent weeks as Omicron took hold in Gauteng province
The newlyweds, who both work in digital marketing, said they will have to use a credit card to pay off the mammoth £4,000 bill for ten days in isolation (File photo of Heathrow)
Mr Hancock said: ‘It is utterly unfair and unreasonable that we should have to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine, which was not the Government policy when we left the UK.’
The couple say they have complied with all guidance and every restriction since the pandemic began.
They are backing a case brought by law firm PGMBM who on Thursday will seek permission at the High Court for a judicial review of the Government’s mandatory hotel quarantine policy.
The firm will present evidence before a judge at a two-hour hearing to decided whether a review will be granted.
Tom Goodhead, managing partner at PGMBM, said: ‘We wholeheartedly appreciate the seriousness of the Omicron variant, as well as the efforts of governments and healthcare workers to tackle it.
Last Thursday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured last Tuesday) confirmed a temporary flight ban from South Africa over last weekend
Passengers did have a window to fly in via a third country, but Mr Hancock and Mrs Mennie decided not to because ‘we didn’t think that was the right thing to do’. Pictured: Heathrow last week
‘This does not, however, mean that policies which constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights can escape the careful judicial examination they deserve.
‘Hotel quarantine is a fundamental breach of people’s human rights. Law-abiding citizens who have been double vaccinated and tested negative should be free from hotel quarantine. The idea that they need to pay for the privilege of their own imprisonment is outrageous.
‘It is for this reason that we are taking the UK government to court. If we are successful, people like Owen and Emily could eventually be entitled to compensation.’
A Government spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to protect our country and the progress we have made thanks to the vaccine rollout.
‘We make no apology for taking decisive action at the border and introducing hotel quarantine. Every essential check has strengthened our defences against the risk of new coronavirus variants such as Omicron.’
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