Jailed for eating out when she was positive Covid case

A VISITOR who ate three times in local restaurants after testing positive for Covid-19 has been jailed for three weeks.

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The Magistrate’s Court was told that Portia Smith, 44, did not know that she was positive at the time, but Judge Graeme McKerrell said it was her fault that she had not made herself available to Public Health to be told of her arrival test results.

It was the first time that a defendant had appeared before the court for failing to comply with the requirement to self-isolate after testing positive but Judge McKerrell said that could have been more by luck than judgment on the part of others.

He said the offences were so serious that a non-custodial penalty could not be justified.

Smith admitted three breaches of self-isolation. She arrived in Guernsey on a flight from East Midlands on Friday 10 September with her husband.

As she had not long returned from a trip to Malta, she had to self-isolate while her husband was classed as a blue channel traveller.

Smith took a PCR test and signed to say she understood the self-isolation rules and would be doing so at the Fermain Valley Hotel.

The following day Public Health could not contact her, the Border Agency was asked to help and hotel staff could not get a response.

When an officer finally tracked her down by telephone, Smith said she had not left the room, but when officers visited the hotel at about 9pm, staff said the defendant and her husband had been out and only just returned. Smith denied that when she opened the door of her room to officers.

She said one phone had been charging and the other was on silent and she did not know Public Health was trying to call. She and her husband had just had a drink at the hotel bar.

When a call to Public Health was arranged, she was told that her PCR test had returned positive.

In interview, she admitted eating in the hotel restaurant on the evening of her arrival.

They had breakfast in another restaurant at the hotel the following morning before going for a walk in the grounds.

That evening they had travelled to Town on the hotel minibus and had a meal with friends before returning to the hotel by bus.

She said that prior to travel she and her husband had both tested positive for Covid-19, but had since given negative tests. Both were double vaccinated and she considered herself to be a low risk.

She claimed hotel staff had told her she had to remain in the hotel complex, not just her room. And she said she had lied to the GBA officers because she panicked.

Advocate Phoebe Cobb, for Smith, said her client misunderstood the hotel’s instructions, but Judge McKerrell said that would have been of her own making.

Advocate Cobb said her client had contacted Public Health numerous times on the Saturday for her test result, but had been told it could take up to 36 hours. At that point she had made the stupid decision to go out with friends that night.

Advocate Cobb said her client had been surprised at the positive test, particularly after testing negative since contracting Covid.

Judge McKerrell said it was not for people to make assumptions.

‘If the rules say you don’t do something, you don’t do it,’ he said.

Smith had also admitted that she had left her phone behind when she went to eat in Town and she had not been honest with Law Enforcement, and Judge McKerrell said: ‘You put what you perceived to be your own needs before that of the wider community. The island’s economic resilience to such a disaster will be much lower than that of larger countries.’

Prison sentences of seven days were imposed for each count of eating in the hotel restaurants, and 21 days for eating in Town. All were concurrent.

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