(October 1, 2020 / JNS) Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Intelligence Services on Wednesday extended the mandate given to the Shin Bet to trace the mobile phones of coronavirus patients as part of the epidemiological investigations held by the Health Ministry.
The Shin Bet’s authorization to continue with the contact tracing program was extended by 21 days.
The committee also discussed whether to mandate that members of the public use the Health Ministry phone app that allows tracking by law or through an incentive program but did not vote on the matter.
Israel’s Knesset first approved the Shin Bet surveillance as an emergency measure in March 2020, but was forced to halt the controversial program after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that legislation had to be put in place for it to continue.
The use of the technology designed to track cellular phones and ordinarily reserved for use in counterterrorism operations came under heavy criticism due to privacy concerns.
On July 1, the Knesset passed a bill temporarily authorizing the surveillance program until July 22, and on July 20 passed a second bill, which will remain in force until January 2021, authorizing the government to renew the authorization every 21 days.
According to Israeli Health Ministry data, of the 65,694 COVID-19 tests conducted on Wednesday, 13.6 percent were positive. As of Thursday morning, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel had risen to 68, 811, of which 810 were in serious condition. There were 206 people on ventilators, and the total death toll stood at 1,571.
Israel has entered its second national coronavirus lockdown, which is expected to last for at least several weeks. The Israeli government released a full list of lockdown restrictions last Thursday, just ahead of Yom Kippur.
The new regulations are geared towards halting and reducing the country’s sharply rising COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates, and come on the heels of a more lenient lockdown imposed on Rosh Hashanah eve. Israel’s first countrywide lockdown was in April.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Support Jewish Journalism
with 2020 Vision
One of the most intriguing stories of the sudden Coronavirus crisis is the role of the internet. With individuals forced into home quarantine, most are turning further online for information, education and social interaction.
JNS's influence and readership are growing exponentially, and our positioning sets us apart. Most Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas. JNS is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.
During this crisis, JNS continues working overtime. We are being relied upon to tell the story of this crisis as it affects Israel and the global Jewish community, and explain the extraordinary political developments taking place in parallel.
Our ability to thrive in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters. Monthly donations in particular go a long way in helping us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make during these challenging times. We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you blessings for good health and peace of mind.