About 60 Percent of Israelis' Appeals Against Quarantine Based on Digital Tracking Granted

Less than a fifth of the 30,000 people who appealed the order, given following monitoring by security service in first half of July, firmly told to remain in isolation

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The promenade in Tel Aviv, July 2020
The promenade in Tel Aviv, July 2020Credit: Meged Gozani
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

About 60 percent of appeals against orders to self-quarantine due to contact with a verified coronavirus patient were granted, according to the Health Ministry.

This is according to data provided to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during a discussion on the Shin Bet security service digital tracking of coronavirus patients and those who were in contact with them.

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About 86 percent of the 34,000 Israelis who turned to the Health Ministry hotline after receiving a text message between July 2 and July 15, instructing them to enter quarantine, appealed the decision. Among those, 58 percent received an affirmative reply and ended their quarantine. Only 18 percent received an unequivocal reply that they must remain in isolation, while the others were transferred to other representatives or have yet to receive a decision about their situation.

Charles Clore Park, Tel Aviv, July 2020Credit: Meged Gozani

Additional data reveal the updated scope of the tracking. The Health Ministry and the Shin Bet have located a total of 152,586 people who were in close contact with a patient between July 1 and July 15. Only 26,790 of them – fewer than 18 percent – were located by means of an epidemiological investigation, while all the others were located by means of Shin Bet tracking. Since the start of tracking, a total of 8,135 patients have been located that way.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Zvi Hauser, said on Sunday that they are considering shortening the quarantine period from 14 days to 12. This "would probably make things easier and reduce the extent of the damage to households and the economy without affecting the scope of the outbreak of the pandemic,” said Hauser during a visit to Home Front Command headquarters in the central Israeli city of Ramle.

The draft bill enabling Shin Bet digital tracking of coronavirus patients will be brought to a final vote in the Knesset plenum on Monday. The law that enabled the Shin Bet to track the contacts of verified patients was approved in the Knesset on July 1 as a temporary law, which would be in force until July 22. It allows the Health Ministry to involve the Shin Bet in epidemiological investigations when there are over 200 patients requiring investigation. It also authorizes the Shin Bet to track cases when it is impossible to complete the investigations by other methods.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the final wording of the bill on Sunday evening. All the details are not known, but the bill does allow for greater Knesset oversight, and gives the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the power to stop the Shin Bet at any time. It also specifically encourages public uptake of the HaMagen 2 application, which was developed by the Health Ministry, as a replacement for Shin Bet tracking.

Earlier this month, it was reported that lawmakers were considering allowing digital tracking only in areas where there is a significant outbreak of the virus.

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