COVID-19 World

Germans win case of being ‘illegally’ quarantined in Portugal for COVID-19

High court judges say COVID-19 tests ‘unreliable, with strong chance of false positives’

PORTUGAL – Four Germans who were forced into quarantine in Portugal after one was said to be positive for COVID-19 won their case in a Portugal court. The a verdict said the widely-used COVID-19 PCR test was up to 97-percent unreliable.

Portuguese judges upheld a decision from a lower court that found the forced quarantine of four German tourists to be unlawful. The case centred on the reliability – or lack thereof – of COVID-19 PCR tests.

The verdict handed down on Nov. 11, came after an appeal against a writ of habeas corpus filed by the four Germans against the Azores Regional Health Authority in Portugal.

The health authority had appealed a ruling from a lower court that found in favour of the tourists who claimed that they were illegally confined to a hotel without their consent. The tourists were ordered to stay in the hotel after one tested positive for COVID-19 in a PCR test and the other three were labelled close contacts and also forced to quarantine.

The ruling stated, “In view of current scientific evidence, this test shows itself to be unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

COVID-19 tests ‘unreliable, with strong chance of false positives’

The Lisbon Appeal Court ruled that the Azores Regional Health Authority violated both Portuguese and international law by confining the four Germans in the hotel. The judges also said that only a doctor can “diagnose” someone with a disease, and were critical of the fact that they were apparently never assessed by one.

The judges also condemned the reliability of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test used check for COVID-19.

The conclusion of the high court’s 34-page ruling said: “In view of current scientific evidence, this test shows itself to be unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”  

This means that in the eyes of the court, a positive test doesn’t correspond to a COVID-19 case. The judges said the two main reasons for this are that, “the test’s reliability depends on the number of cycles used’’ and that “the test’s reliability depends on the viral load present.’’ In simple terms, this means there are too many unknowns surrounding PCR testing.

The Portuguese high court judges cited a study by “some of the leading European and world specialists” that was published by Oxford Academic in September. The Oxford study showed that if someone tested positive for COVID-19 at a cycle threshold of 35 or higher, the chances of that person actually being infected is less than three per cent, and that “the probability of… receiving a false positive is 97% or higher.”

Finland’s national health authority has disputed the WHO’s recommendation to test as many people as possible for COVID-19, saying it was a waste of taxpayer’s money.

reporter@albertapressleader.ca