The government may not force patients who test positive for Covid-19 into compulsory state quarantine if they are able to self-isolate, the high court in Pretoria ruled on Wednesday.
Civil rights group AfriForum challenged regulations signed by the co-operative governance & traditional affairs ministry under the Disaster Management Act on April 29 claiming they were irrational and aimed at putting everyone who tests positive for Covid-19 under compulsory state quarantine.
The regulations suggested that everyone who tested positive for Covid-19, regardless of whether they showed symptoms, could be placed in a government isolation facility.
The department failed to oppose the application in the North Gauteng High Court.
AfliForum regards the regulation as autocratic and irrational decisions by govenment.
“When the government abuses its power and tries to bully the public by violating people’s rights, AfriForum will stand up against it – to the benefit of everyone in the country,” said Monique Taute, head of campaigns at AfriForum.
According to the court ruling, to successfully self-isolate a patient needed access to a separate room and the ability to contact or get to a health facility if their condition worsened.
Judge Norman Davis, in a separate ruling handed down on Tuesday, issued a scathing assessment of the government’s lockdown laws, saying they weren’t well thought out and went against the Bill of Rights.
Two Limpopo doctors were forced into quarantine by the provincial department of health in April. Dr Claire Olivier and Dr Taryn Williams, who work at Mmametlhake Hospital in Mpumalanga, were already self-isolating at home when they were forced into quarantine.
The two tested positive on March 29.
“These regulations would have given the state the power to force people into quarantine without their permission – even under circumstances where the person may be able to effectively self-isolate. It would consequently have given law enforcers and the state too much power under the guise of combating the spread of the virus,” said AfriForum.
By Wednesday South Africa had reported 35,812 positive coronavirus cases with 792 deaths -the highest on the continent.