Coercive quarantine mandates can send coronavirus patients into hiding, defeating the purpose of having such a policy, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Covid-19 case contacts are more likely to develop and potentially transmit the disease to others, and it is “much, much better if someone is ready, willing and able to quarantine themselves on behalf of their community,” WHO’s Dr. Mike Ryan said Thursday.
“Quarantining yourself when you are a contact is an act of courage. It’s an act of contribution to society,” Ryan said. “We’ve seen some pretty intense clusters of cases shut down pretty quickly when quarantine has been implemented successfully in contacts.”
However, he said, some governments have laws in place to make quarantine and isolation mandatory.
“We do clearly state the where such mandatory quarantine rules are in place, the state implementing that mandate must also respect the human rights of the individual,” Ryan said. “They must be in a position to provide an appropriate level of supporting care to that individual. That should not cost that individual in terms of extra out of pocket expenses for the purposes of staying in a hotel.”
WHO is against coercive procedures, Ryan said.
“It can shove the problem underground. And it can mean that people are unlikely to report their status in terms of either being a case, or being a contact, if they feel they will be unfairly treated,” he said.
This means that it is exceptionally important to make sure that there is strong community engagement, to help people understand how diseases spread and understand the roles they play in both transmitting and breaking the transmission chains of Covid-19, he said.
“In our experience, when people understand that fact, and they understand their own personal status, and when they’re supported in the process, most — the vast majority of people — will participate in the quarantine mechanism,” Ryan said. “And we would like to avoid coercive mechanisms to do that.”
Here's what WHO recommends: WHO’s recommendations say that contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 should be quarantined for 14 days in a facility or in the home if they have the ability to quarantine appropriately there.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said that quarantine in the context of contact tracing is “arguably one of the most important elements to breaking chains of transmission.”
She also said that WHO will be updating guidelines for quarantining and isolation in the next week or so, although there will not be many changes.
The main differences include removing the testing requirement at the end of the quarantine period and including language that focuses on children in isolation and quarantining of children with family members so they aren’t separated.