Israeli Police Develop System to Track Returning Travelers in COVID-19 Quarantine

Citizens entering Israel will be given the option of an electronic bracelet, staying in a COVID quarantine hotel, or giving police access to their phone location in order to ensure they remain in self-isolation

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Israelis returning from abroad at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Thursday.
Israelis returning from abroad at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Thursday.Credit: Hadas Parush

According to a bill being advanced by the cabinet, Israelis returning from abroad will be requested to allow police to track their phones, in order to ensure that they are self-isolating as new coronavirus strains continue to spread.

According to the electronic surveillance bill, which was published on Thursday, travelers returning to Israel will be able to choose between wearing an electronic bracelet, sharing their location with the police or quarantining in a designated hotel.

Starting Sunday, 1,000 Israelis will be entering the country each day with no oversight, save for visits by police to make sure they are quarantining. 

The bill would let the health minister authorize the use of different technological means to supervise the quarantine of those entering the country. The Knesset is expected to hold the first reading of the bill on Monday, and then to pass it through an expedited legislative process.

Aside from the electronic bracelets, which allow private companies to surveil the movement of those in quarantine, the police have developed their own system to oversee self-isolation. After travelers declare where they intend to self-isolate, they will be text messages via SMS requesting that they allow the police access to their location.

If their phone location doesn't match that of the place they said they would be quarantining, the police will contact them, and later send officers to their home. Police may also visit the homes of those whose locations do match, in order to ensure that the system is working. Quarantined travelers will share their location via link, meaning that anyone using a mobile phone that isn't a smartphone – including most of the ultra-Orthodox community – will not be able to choose this option.

Those in self-isolation supposedly do not need to share their location with the police, but if they choose not to, police will likely check that they are in fact in quarantine. The bill says that police can make use of the data they collect "by law," but that they must delete the information when they are done using it. According to a source involved in the matter, the police will not keep the data in their possession.