Monitoring of Places of Restriction of Freedom relating to Quarantine Measures against Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Special Preventive Group monitored quarantine spaces in March-May 2020. 112 respondents were interviewed in detail at 41 quarantine hotels.
Most of the respondents said that the law enforcement officers, medical and hotel staff had been treating them ethically and there had been only few incidents.
The respondents indicated delays in airports and checkpoints, as well as shortcomings in food and water supply during long transportation and airport delays. Transportation was mainly in compliance with the infection control norms, although there were cases when the distance required for the prevention of the spread of infection was not observed.
The monitoring showed that the living conditions at hotels were mostly good. Only few respondents expressed dissatisfaction. Television and the Internet were the main means of spending time by the quarantined people. Most of the respondents were placed alone, were not offered any activities during the day, were not allowed to leave the room, about half of the respondents did not have a balcony. Such a situation, along with general anxiety related to the pandemic, causes stress among persons placed in the quarantine space and thus, it is extremely important to provide them with appropriate psychological assistance.
The Special Preventive Group detected certain cases of violation of child’s rights. Particular attention needs to be paid to the issue of children with behavioral disorders, as well as children with autism spectrum disorders, as it may be more difficult for them to be in a strange and closed space, which is a challenge for their parents as well. In the above cases, self-isolation was not used for unknown reasons, which would have improved the condition of these children. It is important for the state authorities to pay particular attention to the self-isolation of these individuals.
No legal remedies had been provided for quarantined persons before May 22, 2020, when amendments were made to the Law of Georgia on Public Health. The obligation to inform persons on the grounds of their placement in isolation/quarantine, right to the lawyer and right to inform a person indicated by them about their placement in isolation/quarantine were established following the Public Defender’s recommendation.
The monitoring made it clear that persons in the quarantine space were rarely provided with written or oral information on the reason for their transfer to the quarantine space, their rights, duties or complaints mechanisms. In addition, since no expedited procedure for reviewing a case has been established, the use of a complaints mechanism may be meaningless as the decision may be made after the quarantine period expires.
It is noteworthy that the process of self-isolation was practically suspended in the period of April-May 2020. Although a certain number of people met the preconditions for self-isolation, they had not been placed in self-isolation in practice.
Given that the quarantine measures against novel coronavirus were applied during emergency, the Public Defender generally positively assesses the steps taken for the protection of the rights of quarantined persons and the active efforts of many individuals, dut at the same time, she emphasizes the need to address the issues identified in the monitoring report in a timely manner.
On June 18, 2020, the monitoring report was submitted in advance to the Parliament of Georgia and representatives of the executive branch for presenting their opinions. After the publication of the report, the Public Defender's Office will actively advocate for the implementation of the recommendations. This issue has become especially important for the Office, as a number of quarantined citizens have applied to the Office relating to individual cases in recent days.