Challenge to coronavirus self-isolation restrictions dismissed


Re: R (Francis) v The Secretary Of State For Health And Social Care [2020] EWHC 3287 (Admin)

In this case, the claimant contends that the Secretary of State had no power to impose the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No 1045) (“the Regulations”) which required any person notified of a positive test for coronavirus and close contacts of such persons to “self-isolate”. H seeks an order quashing the relevant parts of the Regulations.

The Claimant’s main argument relied on the powers given by the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to argue that the Secretary of state had unlawfully made a restriction or requirement that a person “be kept in isolation or quarantine”, which was out of their remit as a result of section 45D(3) read with section 45G(2)(d) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

Held: the claim was dismissed as a whole. The judge was unable to accept the central premise upon which this argument is based, namely that “self-isolation” is the same as, or at least a subset of, “isolation” or “isolation or quarantine”.  “Isolation” is intended to ensure that an individual is properly clinically managed and supervised – vital in the “old” notifiable diseases, as well as restricting opportunities for him or her to spread the disease. “Self-isolation” is targeted on the “new” diseases such a coronavirus which, whilst sadly fatal for many, is nevertheless symptomless or not prone to serious effects for most, but can spread very quickly and with devastating effect. It is therefore focused on merely reducing the reproduction rate of the disease, which is essential for such viruses.

Zoe Leventhal was involved in this case.