Island’s isolation rules ‘unclear and confusing’

INFORMATION on isolation requirements for double-jabbed travellers to the island was unclear, confusing and open to interpretation, argued the island’s former medical officer of health when he took on his successor in the Royal Court yesterday.

Guernsey Airport. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29785053)
Guernsey Airport. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29785053)

Stephen Bridgman addressed the court via Teams from his isolation in Guernsey. He said that in planning to return to the island from New Zealand, where he now works, he only learned that he would have to self-isolate after his daughter, who set off two days earlier on a similar trip, advised him.

He applied to vary the requirement to self-isolate to Dr Nicola Brink while en-route, but this was refused.

Dr Bridgman argued that he came as a low risk to Guernsey and that his detention violated article five of the Human Rights Convention, as it failed to strike the balance between a person’s liberty and the requirement of society.

He said he was not challenging the Bailiwick’s strategy, just the level of risk he had presented.

Dr Bridgman asked the court to revoke his requirement to self-isolate, to cover his costs, and also sought damages from Dr Brink and the Civil Contingencies Authority.

He had been double vaccinated in New Zealand – not recognised by Guernsey – and had deliberately chosen his route to Guernsey via Singapore to ensure he was in the UK’s green zone. He spent 10 hours in the UK between Heathrow and Gatwick.

For Dr Brink, Advocate Penny Grange said that risk management was a key part of the island’s Covid strategy. While Dr Bridgman assessed the risk that he posed, the medical officer of health had to consider the population as a whole.

She said that legislation was clear that there were very few exceptions for travelling through category four countries, such as the UK, and Dr Bridgman must have known he was not a special case. He had taken a calculated risk that he would not have to self-isolate.

Dr Bridgman accepted it had been a calculated risk, but at an individual case level, and there was no good reason why he needed to self-isolate. He argued his case on the grounds that he was fully vaccinated, he had travelled through low-risk countries, he had relatives who were unwell and that self-isolating was stressful – though he had not given any further details on the latter two claims. He accepted the criticism.

He agreed that a variation order had since been made in Guernsey on health grounds that permitted him to go out for short walks, providing he did not come in to contact with others.

Dr Brink said that Dr Bridgman was ‘probably not right’ when he said he would pose little or no risk to the Guernsey public after his trip from New Zealand. He had travelled through international hub airports and had been driven on a bus from Heathrow to Gatwick with others.

Balancing the rights of the individual against that of the wider population was incredibly difficult, and needed to be discharged with great diligence, she said. A single outbreak of Covid could have a huge impact on a small community, as had been shown in the past few days in Alderney.

Dr Brink accepted that an international standard vaccination certificate would be helpful but it did not yet exist. And the Bailiwick’s method of Covid control was not unique – Dr Bridgman would face 14 days self-isolation on his return to New Zealand.

The case continues.

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