A bill allowing the technological surveillance of people returning from overseas who need to be in quarantine passed its initial vote on Wednesday. Five Knesset members supported the bill, with no opposition.
The wording of the bill does not restrict the government to electronic bracelets and allows it to use monitoring apps and other technological tools, at the discretion of the health minister. The bill now goes to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will prepare it for submission for a second and third, final vote.
Why Bibi stayed silent on High Court's landmark decision on Reform conversions: LISTEN
According to the bill, anyone over 14 years of age who refuses to accept the surveillance tool or who doesn’t meet the conditions for home isolation will be sent to a government-sanctioned hotel. In the meantime, people returning to Israel must take a coronavirus test 72 hours before boarding a flight and another one after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. After landing, only people who have not been vaccinated will be required to go into isolation at home.
The bill stipulates that as long as the person under surveillance does not violate the terms of quarantine, any information on his or her location will be destroyed. Any violation will be recorded in a database that will be kept for a period of two weeks up to a month. In addition to introducing the bracelets, the Health Ministry is examining alternative methods, including a cellphone application. The bill allows the health minister to contact any company developing technological means for monitoring quarantine, be it through bracelets, applications or other technologies. This is subject to the minister being convinced that these methods are not collecting data beyond what’s required.
It turns out that the bill allows the state to give private companies authority that heretofore was in the exclusive hands of the state. Thus, for example, such companies will be able to pass information they obtain to the police. These companies will retain, with state approval, information about citizens that may constitute an invasion of privacy. The bill allows the police to hold information they receive with no time restrictions.
The Health Ministry began a pilot project last week allowing the use of electronic bracelets on people returning from abroad. In its first days, people were offered a bracelet as an alternative to going to a hotel for their isolation. The project is designed to include 100 participants over a period of 10 days, for one round of isolation.
The explanatory notes of this bill provide the first data from this pilot. So far, in 36 cases there was movement beyond the range of the monitoring device. After receiving a phone call, people returned to the correct range, with no further violations. In one case, a bracelet was damaged. In 48 cases there were requests for an approved exit from isolation. So far, say the notes, the pilot shows that most people are taking care to abide by the rules of isolation.
- For the Israeli hotel industry, mandatory COVID quarantine was a lifesaver
- There’s no moral justification for another COVID lockdown in Israel
- Fewer deaths, less infection: Israel sees improvement on all COVID fronts
Meanwhile, the exceptions committee for approving entry into Israel has been disbanded, and a new one set up for approving exit for people who are not vaccinated. People who are not citizens still need the approval of an Interior Ministry committee to enter the country. The number of Israeli citizens allowed to return was expanded to 3,000 a day, including entry by land.