By Feona Morrison
Justice Brassington Reynolds, yesterday, ruled against an order for the release of Khalid Gobin, a Guyanese student who has been quarantined at a facility along the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. Gobin, a student of York University in Canada, through his lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, had approached the High Court arguing that not only is he being wrongfully detained, but also being held in deplorable conditions and not adequately fed.
In light of the foregoing, he argued that the State has breached his fundamental right to free movement and liberty and subjected him to inhumane conditions. By way of a writ of habeas corpus, Datadin approached the High Court seeking his client’s immediate release.
Gobin said he was among several passengers who arrived in Guyana from Barbados via a Trans Guyana flight last month, and was immediately taken into quarantine although being told that he would be tested for COVID-19 at the Eugene F. Correira Airport and would be allowed to go home to self-quarantine.
According to him, he was never informed that he would be self-quarantined at the aforementioned location. Further to that, he contends that the order for quarantine only applies to those who have tested positive for COVID-19; he says he has not been tested.
In his affidavit, Gobin, inter alia, said that he is being kept in unsanitary and deplorable conditions and is concerned about the safety of his health as the facility does not meet international standards outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to Gobin, the appropriate quarantine facility should have the following: those in quarantine be placed in adequately ventilated, spacious single rooms, with ensuite toilet (hand hygiene and toilet facilities). If single rooms are not available, beds should be placed at least one meter apart; maintenance of social distancing (more than 1 meter) of the persons quarantined; suitable environmental infection controls, such as adequate air ventilation, filtration systems and waste management protocols.
He added it should also include: accommodation with an appropriate level of comfort, including food, water and hygiene provisions, appropriate medical treatment for existing conditions, assistance for quarantined travellers, isolated or subject to medical examinations or other procedures for public health purposes, protection for baggage and other possession, assistance with communication with family members outside the quarantine facility.
The university student said that he is made to share bathrooms and beds with other persons and does not have access to sanitation facilities, except for the one bar of soap that was given to him.
NOT ARBITRARY, MEETS INT’L STANDARDS
Justice Reynolds, in refusing the order for Gobin’s release, according to Datadin, held that President David Granger invoked constitutional orders under the Public Health Ordinance and the State established the required facilities. The lawyer explained that the Judge ruled that he was satisfied that the measures invoked under the Public Health Ordinance were not arbitrary, and the facility in which the young man is being kept meets international standards.
According to Datadin, the Judge said that by placing himself on a plane for three hours, Gobin subjected himself for quarantine. In light of the foregoing, the Judge refused to grant the release sought by him. Datadin, however, disagrees with the ruling of the court and has indicated that an appeal against the decision will be filed as early as today with the Full Court of Demerara.
He explained that while his client alleges unlawful detention, he is not challenging the orders issued by the President under the Public Health Ordinance as being unconstitutional. He said that over 25 persons, including his client, are being held at the open quarantine facility which is “unacceptable and reckless.” According to him, these persons are being made to sleep on bunk beds, and to use the same washroom and other facilities. But most importantly, he added, none of them, including his client has been tested for COVID-19.
This he said, is a threat to his client’s health and that of others, as should anyone test positive, everyone else will all contract the deadly disease. Moreover, the lawyer revealed that internet connection has been disconnected from the facility so as to prevent persons from posting pictures of the deplorable living conditions via social media. According to the lawyer, persons are being allowed to leave the facility, but his client is still being held.
This, therefore, led Datadin to ask, “If this is a quarantine facility how are they being allowed to leave?” The Attorney General, Chief Medical Officer and Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force were listed as Respondents in the matter.