Leprosy is classed as a ‘notifiable disease’ under the Public Health Act, which groups it with easily-transmittable diseases such as TB, smallpox and SARS. You might think this is just an ancient and overlooked piece of legislation, but it was in fact updated in 2010.
As a notifiable disease, the authorities technically have the right to do any of the following:
• Remove the person to a hospital or other suitable establishment
• Detain the person in a hospital or other suitable establishment
• Isolate or quarantine them
• Restrict them in where they can go and who they can have contact with
• Stop them from working/ trading/ going to school
• Seize, isolate or destroy anything judged to be contaminated and to close or destroy any premises deemed to be contaminated
Although the legislation is never put into practice in England and Wales, it is still discriminatory, reinforcing the myths about leprosy which many still hold today. Equally important is that this legislation has stopped the UK Government raising its voice against the isolation of people affected by leprosy in other countries during UN meetings.