CORONAVIRUS

Court orders quarantine after mother and daughter test positive for Covid-19 but refuse isolation

By Ayanda Mthethwa 18 March 2020

Health workers wearing protective suits prepare an isolation stretcher to move a patient infected with the novel coronavirus Covid-19 disease from an ambulance to a hospital in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Chul-Soo)

The husband, who is listed as the third respondent in the application, refused to be tested and left the hospital before swabs could be taken.

The South Gauteng High Court has ordered a family of three to be quarantined after a woman and her daughter tested positive for Covid-19 but did consent to be quarantined. 

The Gauteng Department of Health had filed an urgent court application to the South Gauteng High court to have the family quarantined. 

The husband, who is listed as the third respondent in the application, refused to take the test and left the hospital before swabs could be taken. 

The court ordered that the South African Police Service (SAPS) trace and have him tested for possible infection after both his wife and daughter tested positive. 

In a statement, the Gauteng Department of Health said the family had been found and placed at a designated health facility. 

“The department approached the court last night on an urgent basis in order to ensure that we don’t interfere with constitutional rights of the patients without a court order,” the statement read. 

“The court order was granted around 01:00 this morning in favour of the department,” it continued. 

The family has been ordered to appear before the court on Tuesday 24 March at 10am to dispute the order granted in favour of the health department. 

As it stands, based on the National Health Department’s communication channel, South Africa still has 62 confirmed cases of Covid-19.  (Late on Tuesday night, that number increased to 85 – Ed)

Daily Maverick reached out to the national Health Department’s spokesperson, Lwazi Manzi for comment, but no response has been forthcoming yet. 

According to Regulations relating to the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions published by the Minister of Health in 2017, the head of a provincial department “must” apply to the High Court for an order if: “a person who is a clinical or laboratory-confirmed case, carrier or contact of a notifiable medical condition” refuses to be tested, admitted at the health facility or quarantined. 

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos wrote on Sunday 15 March that Section 14 of the Regulations “applies to both individuals who carry the virus and those who came into contact with individuals who carry the virus. The section also imposes obligations on those who carry the virus to provide all necessary information required to enable physical or virtual monitoring during the disease. 

“This illustrates that people have an ethical and legal duty to get tested, to go into quarantine and to isolate if required,” De Vos told Daily Maverick

Sasha Stevenson, the head of health at Section27, said that court-ordered medical examinations, admission to a health facility, treatment, isolation, or quarantine are permitted in terms of the regulations, but a court procedure would only follow if a person refuses to consent. 

Stevenson added that the purpose of a court application is to guarantee the protection of the patient’s rights. “The person is also entitled to legal representation in the application to the court,” she said. 

Following a briefing with all ministers at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) in Pretoria on 16 March, there has been no update from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on the number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa. 

On Sunday 15 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa pronounced Covid-19 a National Disaster and outlined a number of drastic measures to be taken, including travel bans affecting high-risk countries like Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, UK, and China. In addition, schools will close from 18 March until 14 April. DM

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