Trinidad: Woman, 2 children with COVID-19 threaten lawsuit over stay at Caura

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Trinidad: Woman, 2 children with COVID-19 threaten lawsuit over stay at Caura
A vehicle enters Caura Hospital.
A vehicle enters Caura Hospital.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Lawyers representing a woman and her two children, who have tested positive for COVID-19, are demanding that they are immediately released from mandatory quarantine.

The demand was made yesterday in three separate pre-action protocol letters issued to Thoracic Medical Director of the Caura Hospital Dr Michelle Trotman by attorneys representing the family members, who cannot be named to protect their identities of the children, who are minors.

In the letters, which were obtained by Guardian Media, attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul claimed that their clients were being unlawfully quarantined under the Quarantine Act and associated regulations for airline and maritime travellers.

They contended that such mandatory quarantine is only permitted by the legislation and through the regulations, in circumstances where a person has entered the country within two weeks of being ordered to be quarantined.

While the lawyers admit that the mandatory quarantine would apply to the woman’s husband and the children’s father, as he returned to Trinidad before an ongoing travel ban took effect on March 23, they contended that it could not be applied to them as they never left the country.

“There is a lawful statutory duty placed upon the Quarantine Officer to ensure that the pre-conditions of the statute are satisfied before any attempt was made to deprive my client of her liberty and that of her minor son,” they said.

Although they admitted that the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, they stated that decisions taken by the Government must still be lawful and constitutional.

“History has shown in these moments of public emergency the temptation is greatest to forgo and undermine guaranteed rights in the interest of expediency and perceived public interest,” they said.

“It is in these times that the guardians of the constitutional compliance must be most vigilant to protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed to each and every one of our citizens under the Constitution, the right to liberty being one of the most fundamental,” they added.

According to the letter, after the woman’s husband tested positive and was quarantined at the Couva Hospital, she and her children were tested at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope on March 28.

The woman and her two children received their test results two days later and were then transferred to the Caura Hospital, along with her husband.

The lawyers claimed that the woman was asked to sign Quarantine Directions forms for her and her children but was unaware of the legal technicality subsequently recognised by the (her attorneys).

“At no time were the contents of this document explained to my client or her infant son,” they said.

As part of their correspondence to Trotman, the lawyers attached copies of the documents in which the section for the “name of passenger” to be quarantined was altered, by hand, to “name of patient”.

In the letters, the family’s lawyers claimed that the conditions at Caura were unsatisfactory.

They noted that the woman’s youngest child was examined by a paediatrician, who ordered that he be placed on a special diet. Despite the instructions, he (the child) is yet to receive the special meals.

“As a result thereof he constantly vomits and is unable to digest the food provided to him. He is getting weaker with each passing day,” Ramdeen said.

In the letters, the lawyers gave Trotman until 9 am today to release the woman and her children before they file lawsuits over the issue.

Their lawyers had not received a response up to late yesterday.

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