From Iceland — Court Rules Gov't Cannot Impose Quarantine Hotel Stay, Few Leave Anyway

Court Rules Gov’t Cannot Impose Quarantine Hotel Stay, Few Leave Anyway

Published April 6, 2021

Photo by
Art Bicnick

A government measure that went into effect April 1st, which compelled anyone arriving in Iceland from countries where the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 infection exceeds 500 per 100,000 population to stay in Fosshótel Reykjavík between screenings, has been ruled by Reykjavík District Court to have no legal ground to compel people who have legal residence in Iceland to stay in this hotel, RÚV reports. Nonetheless, in the wake of the ruling, few people have opted to leave the hotel.

The Minister of Health and the chief epidemiologist contended that they had the legal authority for this action, and that it did not go farther than necessary for ensuring public health, the decision itself being made in light of multiple reports of people breaking quarantine. Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has expressed disappointment with the ruling, and will appeal the matter to Appellate Court.

The basis for the complaints put before the court was that the five-day hotel stay constituted “unlawful detainment”. The ruling was specifically applied to people with legal residence in Iceland, and judge Skúli Magnússon told reporters that no other circumstances were taken into consideration, e.g., people visiting Iceland who do not have legal residence here.

The next step will be for the government to reconvene on the issue. If they want to continue to employ the quarantine hotel strategy, they will need to change current regulations. It may also require Parliament passing a new law.

Despite the ruling, Gylfi Þór Þorsteinsson, who is the supervisor of the quarantine hotel, told reporters that only 15 people to whom the ruling applies opted to check out and complete their quarantine at home. This was despite the fact that everyone was informed of the ruling personally by hotel staff.

The ball is now in the government’s court to see what, if any, new action they will take to either make the quarantine hotel legal, or to come up with another option.

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