Article Norway: Appeals Court Holds COVID Hotel Quarantine Rules Do Not Violate Constitution or European Convention on Human Rights

On July 6, 2022, the Norwegian Appeals Court for Eidsivating ruled that ordering foreigners to stay at designated quarantine hotels for 10 days did not violate their rights under the Norwegian Constitution or their right to family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), allowing a monetary fine for a quarantine violation to stand.  

Background to the Ruling

In the spring of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Norwegian government issued a COVID Regulation (COVID-forskriften) restricting free movement in Norway. In adopting the regulation, the government relied on its powers under the Contagious Disease Act (Lov om vern mot smittsomme sykdommer [smittevernloven] (LOV-1994-08-05-55)). An amendment to the Contagious Disease Act gave the government the power to issue regulations to prevent or counteract the spread of COVID-19 if and when that disease was listed as a contagious disease. The provision specifically stated that the government could issue regulations requiring that travelers quarantine following a border crossing into Norway. (§ 4-3 Smittevernsloven.)

Among other things, the regulation provided that persons returning to Norway from abroad had to stay in a government-designated quarantine hotel for a minimum of 10 days. (§ 4a COVID-forskriften.)

Court Case

The case concerned a Swedish citizen residing in Norway together with his Norwegian domestic partner. Following a week-long trip to Sweden to see his sick father, he returned to Norway in May 2021 and was ordered to quarantine for 10 days in a designated quarantine hotel as specified in the COVID Regulation. The man ignored the order and instead quarantined at his residence. He acknowledged that his reason for leaving Norway did not qualify him for any of the available exceptions in the COVID Regulation. As a result, he was issued a monetary fine for not complying with the order. The man appealed the fine, arguing that he was not bound by the quarantine order as it did not meet the standard of § 1-5 of the Contagious Disease Act and that the requirement violated the Norwegian Constitution and the ECHR. The man relied upon the Norwegian Corona Commission Report in arguing that the hotel quarantine rules were adopted without sufficient scientific support.

Legislation

Section 1-5 of the Contagious Disease Act requires that

infection control measures in accordance with the act shall be based on a clear medical professional justification, be necessary for reasons of infection control and appear useful after an overall assessment. When implementing infection control measures, emphasis shall be placed on the voluntary participation of the person or persons to whom the measure applies.

Coercive measures cannot be used when, depending on the nature of the case and the circumstances, there will be a disproportionate intervention.


Article 102 of the Norwegian Constitution provides that “[e]veryone has the right to the respect of their privacy and family life,” and article 8 of the ECHR provides protection for family life.

Court Findings

The appeals court determined that the quarantine rule did not violate article 102 of the Norwegian Constitution or article 8 of the ECHR because the provisions in the COVID Regulation met the requirements specified in the Contagious Disease Act for when quarantine requirements could be imposed.

In its determination, the appeals court relied on a 2022 Supreme Court decision (HR-2022-718-A) that found that while the Norwegian quarantine rules did limit the rights to family life, the limits were lawful because they were warranted by the conditions of the pandemic and the measure was based on scientific reasoning, had the purpose of limiting the spread of a disease to protect human health, and did not go further than was necessary on the basis of what was known at the time. In particular, the court noted that the potential risk that the quarantine rules were not followed was a legitimate reason for requiring a hotel stay during a time when the spread of COVID-19 was rapidly increasing in Norway.

Thus, the fact that the man quarantined in his home did not constitute an excuse for violating the quarantine rules.

Verdict

The man had thus violated his quarantine duty by not staying in the quarantine hotel and was subject to his original monetary fine of 24,000 Norwegian kroner (about US$2,400), which the court determined was not obviously unfit as a punishment for the crime and thus did not violate the Criminal Procedure Act (Straffeprosessloven § 344.) Under the COVID regulation, violation of the quarantine rules could result in monetary fines or imprisonment for up to six months.

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Chicago citation style:

Norway: Appeals Court Holds COVID Hotel Quarantine Rules Do Not Violate Constitution or European Convention on Human Rights. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-08-02/norway-appeals-court-holds-covid-hotel-quarantine-rules-do-not-violate-constitution-or-european-convention-on-human-rights/.

APA citation style:

(2022) Norway: Appeals Court Holds COVID Hotel Quarantine Rules Do Not Violate Constitution or European Convention on Human Rights. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-08-02/norway-appeals-court-holds-covid-hotel-quarantine-rules-do-not-violate-constitution-or-european-convention-on-human-rights/.

MLA citation style:

Norway: Appeals Court Holds COVID Hotel Quarantine Rules Do Not Violate Constitution or European Convention on Human Rights. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-08-02/norway-appeals-court-holds-covid-hotel-quarantine-rules-do-not-violate-constitution-or-european-convention-on-human-rights/>.