Court Rules Against Mandatory Stay at Quarantine Hotel

Vala Hafstað

Icelandic Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir will be meeting with the Welfare Committee of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, today to discuss the possibility of presenting a bill that would ensure the enactment of a regulation to provide a legal basis for making a stay at a quarantine facility mandatory, Morgunblaðið reports.

Yesterday, the Reykjavík District Court ruled in seven cases that a mandatory stay at a quarantine hotel is illegal.

Since Thursday last week, Fosshótel Reykjavík, the country’s largest hotel, has been used as a quarantine hotel for travelers arriving from high-risk COVID-19 areas abroad. They are expected to stay at the hotel for five days, or until they have received the result of a second COVID-19 test. The plan was to open additional quarantine hotels after Easter. Travelers who test positive for the coronavirus will be transferred to a quarantine facility, located on Rauðarárstígur.

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Health announced that all those able to spend the rest of their quarantine under acceptable conditions were free to leave the quarantine hotel. On the government website, the ruling is announced. It is furthermore stated that the minister of health and the chief epidemiologist are reviewing the ruling and that guests at quarantine hotels will be told they are free to leave the hotel if they can spend the rest of the quarantine under acceptable conditions. “Nonetheless,” the statement continues, “disease prevention authorities urge guests to complete their quarantine at the quarantine hotel, since that is the best way to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease.”

Guests of four hotel rooms decided to leave the hotel following the ruling, mbl.is reports. A total of about 200 people are staying at the hotel.

What weighed heavily in the ruling was the definition of a quarantine facility in the disease prevention law. That definition implies, Morgunblaðið reports, that such a facility is meant for people who have no place to stay in Iceland.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told Bylgjan radio program Í bítið this morning that the ruling is a major disappointment for the Icelandic nation. “I think this is preventing one of the most effective measures being used to try to prevent this virus from entering the country and spreading,” he stated and added he’d like to see a change to the law, making these measures possible anew.

“From my perspective,” he stated, “doing so would be the realistic route for us, so we can continue on this track.” 

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