A lawyer and her husband have challenged the state’s COVID-19 quarantine laws – but SA Health says they’ve also repeatedly refused to be tested.
A lawyer and her husband have challenged the state’s COVID-19 quarantine laws – but SA Health says they’ve also repeatedly refused to be tested.

Historic legal challenge to COVID quarantine laws

An Adelaide lawyer and her husband have filed the first legal challenge to the state's COVID-19 laws, asking they be immediately freed from hotel quarantine.

Caroline Tassone and Phillip Frech say his health is at risk unless he is allowed to recover from the multiple back surgeries he underwent overseas in their purpose-built home.

SA Health, however, says the couple has set another precedent, claiming they are the first people to have refused multiple COVID-19 tests while in quarantine.

They have warned the pair - who returned from Germany via Singapore - risk having their quarantine period extended if they continue to refuse to be tested.

On Wednesday, Ms Tassone told the Adelaide Magistrates Court that the law allowed people to skip hotel quarantine in exceptional cases - like that of her husband.

 

Phillip Frech on life support following one of his surgeries in Germany. Picture: Supplied
Phillip Frech on life support following one of his surgeries in Germany. Picture: Supplied

 

"If celebrities are flown over to Australia and allowed to self-quarantine, what does a normal person have to do to get an exemption - how bad does it have to be?" she asked.

"I just don't understand where we are going, as a society, if this is not enough for an exemption … this is just wrong, and it's immoral."

In 2006, Mr Frech suffered a spinal injury in the workplace and has remained in pain ever since, despite attempted surgical remedies.

In August, the couple received essential traveller exemptions so he could undergo three surgical procedures in two weeks at a neurosurgical clinic in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Before their departure, they applied to quarantine in their home which features mobility aids and a mechanical bed to aid Mr Frech's recovery and rehabilitation.

Ms Tassone is in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel on Hindmarsh Square, separated from her husband. Picture: Kelly Barnes.
Ms Tassone is in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel on Hindmarsh Square, separated from her husband. Picture: Kelly Barnes.

His surgeon wrote a letter of support, saying Mr Frech's condition would worsen without proper rest and assistance.

On September 15, however, the couple returned to SA and were taken to the Pullman Hotel to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Three days later, Mr Frech was rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital due to pain and complications - the couple have been separated ever since.

On Wednesday, via telephone link, Ms Tassone said RAH staff had also recommended Mr Frech return to their home.

"He is in isolation, so they are not allowed to touch him … he has no one to assist him with showering or dressing, I was the one doing that," she said.

"The way he has been treated is detrimental to his recovery … we say the direction (to quarantine in the hotel) is false and invalid, and this court has power to revoke it."

 

Phillip Frech on life support following one of his surgeries in Germany. Picture: Supplied
Phillip Frech on life support following one of his surgeries in Germany. Picture: Supplied

 

Counsel for SA Health disagreed, saying the only appropriate venue for such a challenge was the Supreme Court.

The state's chief magistrate, Judge Mary-Louise Hribal, said that was correct.

"From a jurisdictional point of view, there's simply no power for me to review this decision," she said.

"From a human perspective, I feel incredibly sorry for you and your husband - I think anybody would.

"SA Health is here in court and has heard your concerns … I hope that something happens for your husband so that he's comfortable until the end of his quarantine."

After court, Ms Tassone told The Advertiser the couple had declined to undergo COVID-19 testing due to concerns about its legality and sterility.

She said they were prepared to be tested by their GP, or to consent ahead of being permitted to quarantine in their home.

"If we knew this would happen we would have stayed in Germany longer for Phillip to recover, but we received no response to our application," she said.

"I feel I'm being forced to refuse the COVID-19 test in order to try keep my husband safe to get proper treatment so I can care for him safely at home.

"I'm being bullied and harassed and threatened everyday with $1000 fines."

An SA Health spokeswoman said the situation was unprecedented.

"Over 4,000 people have stayed in our medi-hotels so far and until now, they have all complied with our COVID-19 requirements including testing," she said.

"We currently have two individuals in supervised quarantine who have returned from Europe where there is a high risk of contracting COVID-19, refusing to undertake COVID-19 testing.

"They have refused COVID-19 tests multiple times.

"We have not had this situation occur previously and are investigating what options we can take to protect the health and safety of all South Australians.

"We make every endeavour to ensure the requirements of individuals are met throughout the medi-hotel quarantine process and although this is a complex case, the health and safety of South Australians is always the priority."

Health Minister Stephen Wade said today's two positive COVID-19 tests, in quarantine, served as a "timely reminder" of the need for precaution.

"It's why the government has been defending our quarantine process in court," he said.

"No one is above the law, and everyone in SA needs to comply with our COVID-19 laws.

"Protecting South Australians from the threat of COVID-19 is the top priority for the government."

Originally published as Historic legal challenge to SA's COVID quarantine laws


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