The attorneys representing a mother and her two children who are seeking to be released from the Caura Hospital withdrew their habeas corpus applications yesterday.
This came as a result of new regulations implemented on Thursday which gives the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) the power to quarantine a person once they test positive for COVID-19.
Through her attorney Gerard Ramdeen, Karen Ramsaroop had challenged their detentions, arguing that the state did not have the power to quarantine them.
When the matter was heard by Justice Ricky Rahim via virtual hearing yesterday, Ramdeen indicated that they would be withdrawing the applications based on the new regulations under the Public Health Ordinance. He inferred that the new guidelines were only implemented because of this matter.
However, Reginald Armour SC, who represented Caura Hospital medical director Dr Michelle Trotman, rejected the notion that there was any ulterior purpose of motive by his clients. Armour said the reality of the situation is that “we all, every one of us, is dealing with a very fluid, rapidly evolving state of circumstances.”
In the affidavits filed, Ramsaroop’s attorneys contended that they were being unlawfully detained by the state as they did not satisfy the statutory preconditions. They based their argument on the precondition that a person could be quarantined if they had a history abroad. Upon that person’s return to the country, they argued he/she would be quarantined for 14 days if they exhibit signs of contracting a contagious illness. Although they tested positive for COVID-19, Ramsaroop and her children had no travel history. However, it is believed that they contracted the virus from her husband who recently travelled abroad. Resisting Ramdeen’s application for costs, Armour submitted, “It is my respective view that they are attempting to stay ahead of these very fluid circumstances and ahead of the curve in order to flatten it to protect the citizens and people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
On Wednesday, Ramdeen had also withdrawn a similar application brought on behalf of Crime Watch host Ian Alleyne, who filed a habeas corpus writ after he received discharge documents but was later told that he could not leave the Caura Hospital. The judge will decide on costs for both matters on May 4.
In a telephone interview afterwards, however, Ramdeen insisted that the Public Health Regulation 10 was deliberately implemented because of Ramsaroop’s matter. He said this was the second time in a week that fundamental errors of the executive had been highlighted and cured after citizens sought legal action. He noted that last week the regulations regarding liquor marts had to be amended.
“In these times of public emergency, where the population is gripped with fear of the virus that confronts us, one expects that when laws are passed that the rights of citizens will be considered to ensure that legislation meets the public interest,” he said.