Proposed Bill Would Put All Arrivals to Israel Under Surveillance to Ensure COVID Quarantine

The government intends to use electronic bracelets and other measures as an alternative to state-run quarantine facilities, but an opt-out option would remain

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A passenger arrives at Ben-Gurion International Airport, on Wednesday.
A passenger arrives at Ben-Gurion International Airport, on Wednesday.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

The Israeli government has published a bill that will allow authorities to use electronic surveillance bracelets and other technologies to track returning Israelis during their mandatory quarantine period. 

The measure is intended to replace the current practice of sending arrivals to state-run quarantine facilities, though the bill would maintain the option to isolate in government facilities for those would prefer to opt out of the surveillance mechanisms or who cannot meet the conditions for quarantining at home.

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Under the terms of the proposed legislation, which wil be put to a vote in an expedited procedure on Monday, any information collected will be destroyed in real-time, unless the subject of surveillance violates quarantine. In cases of breach, information will be stored in a database for two weeks to a month, as well as transferred to the authorities.

The bill would grant Health Minister Yuli Edelstein the authority to hold talks with every private company that develops monitoring devices, like electronic bracelets, monitoring apps or "any other technology."

Furthermore, the proposed legislation would grant these private companies authorities that until now have pertained to the state. The companies would be allowed to share any information they gather about quarantine violations and additional data with the police, which might constitute an infringement of the right to privacy.

In practice, the state would allow the private companies to collect information on citizens. It would be stored in Health Ministry databases, which the companies will also have access to.

In addition, the bill would allow the police to keep the information for an unlimited period in cases they "have used it."          

Discussions in the Knesset's constitutional committee also revealed that the objective of the state-run quarantine facilities have been undermined by people who have been authorized to quarantine at home and have violated the terms of their isolation.

Meanwhile, those returning to Israel are required to present a negative test taken 72 hours before the flight, as well as an additional test after arriving at Israel's borders.

The pilot surveillance program began on Monday with 100 tracking systems at Ben-Gurion Airport, where traffic has dropped dramatically due to restrictions meant to reduce the risk of COVID-19 strains entering the country.

The system includes an electronic bracelet, a smartphone and a wall-mounted tracker. 

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