Student quarantined at highway facility goes to court over ‘wrongful detention’

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Khalid Gobin, a Guyanese student who has been quarantined at a facility on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway has approached the High Court, saying that the conditions are deplorable and that he is being wrongfully detained.

Khalid is arguing that the orders for quarantine apply to those who have been tested positive for COVID-19; those not tested are quarantined at home. Khalid claims he has not been tested.

The case will be heard via video conferencing on Wednesday by Justice Brassington Reynolds and a decision would be made on Thursday.

Gobin is a student of York University in Canada.

After the University closed, the applicant was in self-quarantine in Canada but received information from family and friends and from social media that the airports in Guyana would be closed on March 18.

As a result, he booked his flight to return to Guyana on March 18 which was confirmed by Air Canada and LIAT, as he travelled from Canada to Barbados and would then take the LIAT flight to Guyana.

He was scheduled to arrive in Guyana at 9:20 pm on the 18th but after arriving in Barbados he was told the LAIT flight was cancelled.

He was forced to book a hotel for seven days to be in self-quarantine. Gobin, in a sworn affidavit though his attorney Sanjeev Datadin, said he was advised by Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson to contact the Guyana Consulate if he wished to return to Guyana.

After seven days, he was told that a Trans Guyana flight was given permission to return students and other passengers.

The condition was that the flight crew and passengers must exercise health recommendations as published by the Ministry of Public Health.

He was informed of health checks at the Ogle Airport upon returning to Guyana. He said he was told they would be tested for COVID-19 at Ogle and would be allowed at his home to be self-quarantined and isolated.

“It was never communicated to the applicant that he would be self-quarantined at an unknown government facility,” the application to the court.

Once arriving at Ogle, the applicant claims he was greeted by men and women in hazmat (hazardous materials) suits, who sanitised his luggage and he and the other passengers were made to put on masks while their documents were being checked.

They were then told to get on a bus and were offered no explanation.

Gobin said no tests were conducted on him at any point in time. The Ministry of Health has said that only those who show symptoms would be tested.

Three of the passengers held out that they would not get on the bus unless they were told where they were going.

An official from the Ministry of Public Health then informed them that the location was classified and that is why they cannot be told where they were going; it was when then that the other three persons boarded the bus.

Gobin said he was told he could not contact his family pursuant to an order issued by the President.

Once they arrived at the highway quarantine facility, Gobin said he attempted to update his family on the phone but he was stopped and told he was disclosing classified information.

Gobin and two others refused to sleep in the facility because they said the conditions were unsanitary and deplorable.

Gobin said he was concerned about his health because the facility does not adhere to the international standards set by the World Health Organisation for the operation of COVID-19 facilities. These conditions were cited in the court documents.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), appropriate quarantine arrangements include 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 1 meter apart
  • suitable environmental infection controls, such as adequate air ventilation, filtration systems and waste management protocols
  • maintenance of social distancing (more than 1 meter) of the persons quarantined
  • accommodation with an appropriate level of comfort, including food, water and hygiene provisions
  • protection for baggage and other possessions
  • appropriate medical treatment for existing conditions
  • assistance for quarantined travellers; isolated or subject to medical examinations or other procedures for public health purposes
  • assistance with communication with family members outside the quarantine facility

Gobin claims these standards are not being met.

Gobin said he does not have access to sanitation facilities but the one bar of soap which was given to him. There are only two bathrooms and two toilets which everyone shares, he said.

The applicant expressed concerns about security and the meals being served.

He was told that he would be kept at the facility for 14 days.

In court documents, Gobin said he is subject to inhumane and degrading punishment in that he is subjected to live in deplorable and unsanitary conditions and given inadequate food.

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