Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID 19 hotel quarantine: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
24 Aug 2021
COVID 19 hotel quarantine: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100224014
Date received: 18 Jul 2021
Date responded: 16 Aug 2021
Information requested

1. Is there a defined list of what qualifies as compassionate exemption from Hotel Quarantine?

2. How many compassionate requests for exemption have been received since the start of hotel quarantine in February 2021?

3. How many compassionate requests have been successful?

4. What criteria is used for compassionate exemptions?

5. Who makes the decision to permit or deny the compassionate exemption?

6. 2% of HQ people test +ve. When was the Scottish Government's last review of the proportionality of HQ for citizens/residents?

7. Has the SG taken legal advice on breaching Article 5 and 8 of ECHR legislation?

8. Has the SG taken legal advice on breaching WHO regulations and charging people for quarantine?

9. What medical evidence underpins the decision denying home quarantine for citizens/residents with -ve PCR tests returning from 'red' countries?

10. Other than desperately begging for help on TV is there a formal appeal process for people denied compassionate exemption?

Response

Answers to your questions are set out below and are grouped into the themes of the questions asked. You should note that each question is addressed in this way below but that the numbering of the paragraphs do not necessarily correspond to the numbering of the questions above.

Compassionate exemption requests

1. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested regarding the numbers of compassionate requests for exemption and those that have been successful would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.

2. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

3. The Managed Isolation Service in Scotland and its operations were created at pace in response to the Covid-19 pandemic around management of risks of transportation of new variants of concern into Scotland as a result of international travel. The urgency of our response, including the setting up of systems that had to respond to large numbers of travel correspondence within very short timescales, means that the retrieval and provision of the information you have asked for under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 6D 2(a)(xi) is exempted under Section 12 of FOISA.

Qualifications and criteria for compassionate exemptions

4. Information on exemptions, including examples of conditions that may qualify for an exemption, and the process, can be found on the Scottish Government website - Coronavirus (COVID-19): international travel and managed isolation (quarantine) - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). All requests for exemptions are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Who makes the decision to permit or deny exemptions

5. Scottish Ministers and/or any person authorised by Scottish Ministers may grant compassionate exemptions under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 6D.(2)(a)(xi).

Appeals

6. Under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, Regulation 6C, individuals have the right to appeal to the sheriff or the summary sheriff against the requirement to possess a managed self-isolation package or remain in the managed isolation accommodation. 

Legal advice

7. An exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to some of the information requested because it is legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege. This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of the case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation. 

Review and proportionality

8. The International Travel Regulations are reviewed every 28 days and the last review took place on 26th July 2021. Any amendments to the Regulations consider the proportionality of the measures that have been put in place. This has included the role of vaccinations in protecting public health as the vaccine programme has rolled out, and the subsequent introduction and expansion of the vaccine exemption for amber list passengers.

Medical evidence and the requirement to enter managed isolation from ‘red’ countries

9. Scottish Ministers take decisions on the red, amber and green country lists based on evidence provided by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). These reports take into account a number of factors in judging the risk associated with travel from each country, assessing genomic sequencing and epidemiology in each location. Criteria includes case numbers, incidence of the virus amongst the population, the prominence of variants of concern (VOCs) as well as any other practical factors relevant to each country.

10. The actions we have taken are based on risk assessments by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). They are considered proportionate in the circumstances. Progress in tackling the pandemic means we have been able to move to a risk-based traffic light system of restrictions on international travel with red, amber, green ratings. However, due to the importance of limiting importation travellers from higher risk, red list countries are required to enter managed isolation to reduce risk of transmission. We must continue to minimise the risk of importing new cases of the virus as a result of international travel.

11. Further information about the JBC methodology and data informing decisions is available here: COVID- 19 risk assessment methodology to inform international travel traffic light system - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and Data informing international travel risk assessments - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

12. Managed isolation impact assessments can be found at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): international travel and managed isolation (quarantine) - gov.scot (www.gov.scot) 

About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG