Join the Legal Challenge of the UK Government’s Hotel Quarantine
Join the Legal Challenge of the UK Government’s Hotel Quarantine
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Latest: July 19, 2021
As you may be aware from our previous update, the Government applied to the Court to request an 8-week stay (pause) of the judicial review proceedings in order to finalise its fee waiver and/or fee r…Read more
PGMBM, acting on behalf of an NHS worker, a pensioner, and a gig economy worker, is challenging the British Government’s charges for hotel quarantine.
We need your support to challenge this unlawful policy, which disproportionately affects those with low or no incomes.
Who are the Claimants?
"Mr M” is an NHS worker who travelled to Ethiopia in early March to visit his dying uncle and to care for his unwell mother. Unfortunately, shortly after his departure, Ethiopia was added to the “red list”. Mr M helps homeless people find housing after they are discharged from hospital and provides packages for patients with complex needs. He is now unable to return to his home and essential role as a key worker as he cannot afford to pay £1,750 for hotel quarantine.
“Mrs B” is a pensioner who travelled to South Africa in October 2020 to attend her son’s wedding. She was due to arrive home prior to the hotel quarantine regulations coming into force but, after her flight was cancelled, she arrived on 15 February 2021 - the day the regulations came into force. Despite receiving a modest pension, Mrs B was asked to pay £1,750 for a hotel quarantine package. She is now concerned about meeting this cost.
“Mr E” is a gig economy worker. In early April, Mr E travelled to Pakistan to visit his severely unwell father, who sadly died shortly after Mr E’s arrival. Mr E earns minimum wage and works under a zero-hours contract. To return to England, Mr E was forced to use his family’s emergency savings to pay the upfront fee of £1,750 for his quarantine package. He is now very distressed about the impact this large additional cost will have on his family’s ability to survive financially.
What’s the issue?
The hotel quarantine regulations and charging policy require all UK and Irish citizens and residents travelling to England from “red list” countries to pay an upfront cost of £1,750, and over £3,000 for a family of four, to quarantine in a government-designated hotel for at least ten days from the date of arrival. This is a fee that many travellers have been unable to afford.
There is currently no discretion for people travelling for compassionate or emergency reasons and there is no way for people to pay a reduced fee, even if they cannot realistically afford it.
The only exemption to upfront payment is a ‘deferred payment plan’ over a maximum of 12 months, and this is reserved for only those facing emergency financial hardship. This has been extremely limited, and the application process has been vague and inconsistent.
Why is this a problem?
We believe that the Government’s hotel quarantine regulations and charging policy are unlawful. Our challenge is based on two main grounds:
1. The Government’s imposition of charges for hotel quarantine is unlawful because it breaches the UK’s international obligations under the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations 2005, which clearly prohibit charges for quarantine.
2. It is unlawful to charge the same fee of £1,750 for everyone who enters hotel quarantine regardless of their individual financial or personal circumstances.
This thoughtless “one size fits all” policy has had, and will continue to have, far-reaching implications for so many citizens and residents who have had a perfectly valid reason to travel and are simply hoping to return home to England.
As things stand, the Government has failed to offer adequate support to an increasing number of people who are unable to return home to their families and jobs because they cannot afford the disproportionate hotel quarantine fees. This, in our view, is an unlawful interference with their rights to private and family life, as protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and is discriminatory contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
What is PGMBM doing?
PGMBM has filed and served legal proceedings seeking a judicial review of the hotel quarantine regulations and charging policy on behalf of the Claimants.
PGMBM has instructed leading barristers Adam Wagner and Cian Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers. Both Adam and Cian are also recognised commentators on issues of public law and COVID-19 legislation.
As followers of this page will be aware, PGMBM issued proceedings following the exchange of pre-action correspondence with the Government in which it outlined the Claimants’ concerns about the impact of the regulations and the charging policy on people with no or low incomes.
Unfortunately, the Government failed to properly address these concerns; noting that the fees are proportionate and that people on low incomes are less likely to be travelling internationally. We feel that this view is patronising, short-sighted and fails to acknowledge that people from all backgrounds sometimes have no choice but to travel.
Why do we need your support?
PGMBM feels strongly that the policy is unlawful and should be subjected to judicial scrutiny. It is for this reason that it has taken the case on a pro bono basis.
However, funds are needed to meet the cost of our Counsel team’s fees and court fees.
Although we believe that our legal challenge has a strong chance of success, there is always a risk that the case is unsuccessful and that the Claimants will become liable for adverse legal costs.
PGMBM has committed to protecting the Claimants against any costs awarded against them by agreeing to indemnify them in the event that the claim is unsuccessful. Therefore, funds raised will also be put towards any adverse costs award made against the Claimants.
What does this mean for others who are affected by hotel quarantine?
By representing the Claimants in this matter, we hope to hold the Government to account for breaching its international obligations and champion the rights of those who cannot afford the disproportionate hotel quarantine fees.
In addition to seeking reconsideration of each of our Claimants’ cases, the challenge seeks:
1- A declaration that the paragraph of the regulations that authorises the Government to impose a charge for hotel quarantine packages is ultra vires and should therefore be severed from the regulations;
2 - A declaration that the discretion given to the Government under that paragraph cannot be used in a way that is inconsistent with the International Health Regulations (which prohibit charging for quarantine) and the charging policy is therefore ultra vires; and
3 - An order quashing the Government’s charging policy.
We will provide you with updates on this page as the case continues.
Please note that we have now filed and served legal proceedings, meaning we will not be adding additional claimants to the judicial review.
Thank you for your support
With your support, we can bring a judicial review and hold the Government to account for its unlawful policy and lack of consideration for the circumstances of everyday people. Please contribute to our legal action now and share this page with your friends, family and on social media.
July 19, 2021
As you may be aware from our previous update, the Government applied to the Court to request an 8-week stay (pause) of the judicial review proceedings in order to finalise its fee waiver and/or fee reduction scheme. In counter, PGMBM offered to agree to a shorter stay of 4 weeks on the basis that the Government had not provided sufficient reasons to show why it needed such a long period of time to finalise the scheme and consider the Claimants’ cases. On 12 July, the Court decided to grant a stay of 6 weeks until 9 August 2021.
PGMBM has yet to see details of the scheme, so we are not currently able to disclose any further information regarding eligibility under the scheme and the requirements which must be met to qualify for "financial hardship". However, once details of the scheme have been shared with us, we will scrutinise the same thoroughly to ensure that it provides adequate support and exemptions for those who are unable to pay and are facing financial hardship as a result of the hotel quarantine fees.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you all once again for your ongoing support and to everyone who has reached out to us to share their hotel quarantine experience.
PGMBM will continue to work hard to ensure that those from low- or no-income backgrounds are not disproportionately affected by the Government’s charging policy and/or prevented from returning home.
July 5, 2021
Some Good News!
There has been a big development in the case.
One of the key elements of the Claimants’ challenge is that the British Government’s charging policy for hotel quarantine is unlawful because it imposes the same fixed fee of £1,750 or more on anyone travelling to England from a “red list” country. The policy does not take into account an individual’s circumstances or their ability to pay. The crux of the challenge is that any scheme which does not allow for the fee to be waived or reduced under any circumstance is unlawful, as it discriminates against people from low or no income backgrounds. It can also prevent people exercising their “right of abode”; something all British citizens and residents are entitled to do.
Last Friday, (the last working day before the Government’s Summary Grounds of Defence was due to be filed), we received confirmation from the Government that they will be changing the hotel quarantine system to allow people to apply for a fee waiver or reduction on the grounds of financial hardship. This is precisely what PGMBM has been advocating for since sending our Letter Before Claim in early March, shortly after the system of hotel quarantine was introduced.
We have not yet seen the detail of the scheme (despite PGMBM having requested details) and so do not know who will be eligible under the scheme and which criteria must be met to qualify for “financial hardship”. The existing scheme, which allows the hotel quarantine fee to be deferred over a maximum of 12 months, is reserved for people facing significant financial hardship. This has been extremely limited, and the application process has been vague and inconsistent. However, we are hopeful that the new scheme will be broader and its application a lot clearer.
We also do not know whether the scheme will apply to the Claimants or to anyone who will have completed hotel quarantine and paid the fee prior to the scheme coming into place. That is, whether people who have paid the £1,750+ charge but could not afford it will be able to ask for a backdated waiver or reduction. Over 40,000 people have been through the scheme so far and so this could potentially involve a lot of people. The Government has however confirmed that the Claimants’ - none of whom could afford the charge - cases will be reviewed. Therefore, there may be a chance for people who have already completed their stay in hotel quarantine to be able to have the amount that they owe the Government reviewed. We will not know for certain either way until the full scheme is revealed. Rest assured, however, we will update you here as soon as we know.
It is a testament to the powerful arguments raised in our challenge that the Government appears to have conceded that the Claimants were right all along. It is disappointing that it has taken almost four months since these arguments were first raised, for this concession to be made and our thoughts remain with the thousands of people who are suffering as a result of the policy.
The Government has now asked the Court for an eight-week “stay” (a pause) in the proceedings so that it can implement the fee reduction and waiver scheme. We have agreed to a four-week stay only on the basis that the Government has not provided sufficient reasons to show why it needs such a long period to finalise the scheme and consider the Claimants’ cases, when some COVID-19 policies have been put in place at significant speed and many British citizens and residents are suffering right now as a result of the unlawful policy.
The Government says eight weeks is needed because the scheme is both impacted by, and impacts on, the broader suite of policies being implemented to improve hotel quarantine. The Government also cited practical barriers to policy implementation such as changes to the booking system, debt collection considerations and clear communication of its new policy.
The Court will now decide whether to grant a stay and for how long.
In the meantime, we want to say a big thank you once again to everyone who has supported the challenge. The pressure exerted on the Government appears to have paid off, with the campaign looking as if it will be a successful one. We promise to keep you posted with any further developments.
You can read our full Statement of Facts and Grounds here -
June 2, 2021
PGMBM Files for Permission to Judicial Review
PGMBM have filed and served legal proceedings to challenge the British Government’s charges for hotel quarantine. The three Claimants, a pensioner, an NHS worker and a gig economy worker, have applied for permission for a judicial review of the hotel quarantine regulations and charging policy, which they argue are unlawful.
The rules state that UK and Irish citizens and residents who wish to return to England from “red-list” countries must pay an upfront cost of £1,750 to quarantine in a government-designated hotel, and over £3,000 for a family of four, a fee many travellers have been unable to afford. There is currently no discretion for people travelling for compassionate or emergency reasons and there is no way for people to pay a reduced fee, even if they cannot realistically afford it. The only exemption to upfront payment is a ‘deferred payment plan’ over a maximum of 12 months which is reserved for people facing emergency financial hardship. This has been extremely limited, and the application process has been vague and inconsistent.
PGMBM have instructed leading barristers Adam Wagner and Cian Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers to challenge the hotel quarantine regulations. They will argue that the charges breach international law, the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations, as well as equalities and human rights law.
You can find a link to the Amended Statement of Facts and Grounds of Application for Judicial Review (the Court document setting out the reasons for the challenge) below.
As followers of this page will be aware, the filing comes after PGMBM exchanged pre-action correspondence with the Government that outlined the Claimants’ concerns about the impact of the regulations and the charging policy on people with no or low incomes. At present, the Government has failed to properly address these concerns.
“Mr E”, a gig economy worker and the third Claimant in the proposed challenge, said “One would expect that everyone would be charged fairly for services provided based on what they can afford. However, when it comes to hotel quarantine fees, everyone is treated the same.”
For the lower or working classes, the worry of unpaid bills, affording food, poverty or becoming homeless is a real threat as a result of having to pay this unaffordable fee. The hotel quarantine fee is set at £1,750 per traveller for 10 days, but food delivery drivers like myself (identified as key workers during the pandemic) on zero hours contracts earn far less income per month.”
PGMBM also represents both “Mr M” - an NHS worker who travelled to Ethiopia in early March to visit his dying uncle and to care for his unwell mother - and “Mrs B”, a pensioner who travelled to attend her son’s wedding in October 2020 and, due to her flight being cancelled, inadvertently arrived back in the UK on the day the regulations came into force.
Should you wish to share your experiences with PGMBM, please send an email to HotelQuarantine@pgmbm.com.
April 23, 2021
PGMBM Send Further Correspondence
We would like to thank you all once again for your continued and invaluable support to the campaign. Our challenge to the Government’s illegal and unfair hotel quarantine policy would not have been possible without your support and generous donations.
By way of update on our judicial review challenge, on 16 April 2021 we responded to the Government’s letter. We have given the Government until 23 April 2021 to respond. We will post a link to a copy of the letter (with redactions to protect the privacy of the Claimants) as soon as possible.
As mentioned in our previous update, the Government’s response fell short of our request to remove all charges for hotel quarantine. We have therefore once again requested that the Government remove all charges on the ground that charging UK and Irish citizens and residents to quarantine is a breach of the UK’s obligations under international law. As an alternative to removing all charges, we have requested that the Government at least introduce adequate exemptions and/or payment plans to ensure that those who are unable to afford the hotel quarantine charges are not left in difficult financial situations or prevented from returning home and exercising their right of abode in the UK.
We note that on 23 April the Government added India to the “red list”. You can find the full “red-list” via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19#red-list-travel-ban-countriesAccordingly.
We remain extremely concerned that the Government continues to introduce further countries to the “red list” without considering the impact that the hotel quarantine charges and the lack of support for those from low--income backgrounds is having on an increasing number of citizens and residents who are unable to return home.
If you have been affected by the Government’s hotel quarantine policy, we invite you to contact us to share how it has impacted you and your families.
April 7, 2021
Government Responds to PGMBM
Firstly, and as always, thank you to all those who have continued to both donate and stay engaged with the campaign. Your invaluable support consistently provides the motivation to sustain our efforts to challenge the Government’s hotel quarantine policy and remains greatly appreciated by all involved.
We received a response from the Government to our Letter Before Claim on 26 March 2021. We will post a link to a copy of the letter (with redactions to protect the privacy of our Claimants) as soon as possible.
We are pleased to announce that since sending our Letter Before Claim, the Government has removed Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) from the “red-list” of travel ban countries. This means that the second Claimant can now return home and attend school without having to book a “managed self-isolation package” and quarantine in a government-designated hotel room for (at least) 10 full days. In addition, the Government has also updated the hotel quarantine exemption list to include: (i) individuals with severe medical or health conditions as it now recognises that such individuals would not receive appropriate support if required to self-isolate in a government-designated hotel room; (ii) the carers of those individuals with severe medical or health conditions; and (iii) individuals who need to travel to visit a dying or severely ill household member, close family member or friend.
Whilst this is an excellent result for our client, the Government’s response falls far short of our request that it remove all charges for hotel quarantine.
We also note that the Government continues to update the “red-list” and on 19 March added Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar and Somalia to the list. Similarly, on 2 April the Government announced that on 9 April Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines will be added to the list.
You can find the full “red-list” via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19#red-list-travel-ban-countriesAccordingly, we remain extremely concerned that an increasing number of people may be unable to afford to return home because of the Government’s unlawful hotel quarantine charges and may be experiencing immense stress about the uncertainty of how and when they will return home. If you have been affected by the Government’s hotel quarantine policy, we invite you to contact us to share how it has impacted you and your families.
March 10, 2021
PGMBM Send Letter Before Claim to the Government
Firstly, we would like to thank everyone for their support in raising awareness about the challenge to hotel quarantine, sharing how it has affected you and your families as well as for all the generous contributions received to date.
We have made significant progress over the last two weeks and are pleased to inform you that we have instructed a distinguished Counsel team consisting of Tom Hickman QC, Adam Wagner and Francis Hoar, all of whom are leading human rights and public law barristers.
Today, 5 March 2021, we sent the Government a Letter Before Claim (“LBC”) on behalf of two Claimants which sets out our challenge to the measures. On the advice of Counsel, the LBC is focussed on the grounds with the greatest prospects of success when taking the Claimants individual circumstances into account. Accordingly, we have focussed the grounds of judicial review on: (1) the illegal imposition of charges for hotel quarantine and coronavirus testing; (2) the unaffordable level of fees and absence of any adequate exceptions under the hotel quarantine charging policy; and (3) European Convention on Human Rights and Equality Act challenges to the nature of the quarantine restrictions.
Our challenge is to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations, which amended the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/568) (the “Regulations”).
In summary, we say:
- Article 40 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (“IHR 2005”) prohibits the imposition of charges for quarantine. Therefore, it follows that the Government’s charging policy for a “managed self-isolation package” is contrary to the IHR.
- The general power for the Secretary of State to “permit or prohibit” charges under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 must be read subject to the UK’s international obligations under the IHR 2005. It follows that either (a) the provision in the Regulations that authorises the Secretary of State to impose charges for quarantine is ultra vires, and should be severed from the Regulations, or (b) the discretion under that provision cannot be used in a way contrary to the IHR 2005 and so Government’s charging policy is ultra vires.
- The imposition of quarantine charges represents a substantial additional cost for people needing to travel and, for many, the costs are unaffordable and prohibitive. In addition, the Government’s charging policy does not make adequate exceptions or reductions for those that are unable to pay it - For example, people receiving income related benefits and retirees who do not have any work income. The effect of the charging policy is therefore to prevent people travelling to see family and, in many cases, will impede and even prevent family units from being together. In some cases, the charges obstruct people, including children, from exercising their right of abode or residency in the United Kingdom, unlawfully frustrating their statutory rights under the Immigration Act 1971.
- In general, a restriction (such as hotel quarantine) that impacts upon fundamental freedoms or that affects minority groups disproportionately will not be lawful under the Human Rights Act 1998 or the Equality Act 2010 if a less restrictive method could have been used. The LBC focusses on one specific group that is disproportionately affected by hotel quarantine, namely children.
- When considering the hotel quarantine measures, the Court must scrutinise decisions affecting fundamental rights. Whether those decisions are lawful or not must be based objectively on the merits. In circumstances where an equality impact assessment has not been undertaken, or where one has been undertaken but is inadequate, the Court should not give the Government any, or more than a minimal, margin of discretion. We note that the Government has not published any impact assessment in respect of children. In any event, given the nature of the hotel quarantine measures, we do not consider that any impact assessment could have adequately evaluated the impact of hotel quarantine on children .
In light of the above, the LBC requires the Government to: (1) remove all charges for hotel quarantine; (2) agree that the hotel quarantine measures are inadequate to address the rights of children; and (3) set out how the hotel quarantine measures will be changed to give effect to their fundamental human rights. You can read the full LBC by following the link on our CrowdJustice page. Please note we have removed the identifying details of our Claimants to protect their privacy.
Whilst we acknowledge the importance of safeguarding public health, we wholeheartedly believe that the Government should not use the Coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to implement unlawful regulations that are contrary to the UK’s international obligations and violate fundamental human rights.
The government must be held to account and without your support that would not be possible, so again, thank you.
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