Jul 25, 2021

The Knesset announced on Monday that its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had approved a bill authorizing the Shin Bet to assist the government in its epidemiological investigation of coronavirus carriers.

This proposed bill follows Knesset legislation passed on July 1, which gave the Shin Bet authorization for three weeks, until July 22, to use advanced technology normally employed to track terrorists to monitor the phones of coronavirus patients that the Health Ministry was having trouble locating.

Under the terms of the current proposed bill, approved on Sunday and valid until January 20, 2021, “The prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and the alternate prime minister [Benny Gantz] will present to the government a proposal to grant the Shin Bet this authorization for a period that shall not exceed 21 days.”

According to the Knesset statement, once the authorization is received, the Health Ministry will be permitted to request the Shin Bet’s assistance in conducting an epidemiological investigation, “provided that the number of new patients on the day the request is submitted, or the day prior to that, surpasses 200.”

Within the framework of the proposed legislation, the Health Ministry will be obligated to launch and promote an updated version of the “HaMagen” cell phone app for informing members of the public when they have come in contact with the virus. Much of the Israeli public downloaded the first version of the app months ago.

The bill also includes a clause enabling anyone who receives a message that he or she must enter quarantine—as a result of having come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19—to appeal. The Health Ministry will be required to reexamine such cases and respond within 24 hours.

More than 12,000 Israeli citizens were directed mistakenly to self-quarantine, due to problems with the phone-tracking system. Last week, Health Ministry official Ayelet Grinbaum said that 70,949 citizens had received text messages informing of proximity to confirmed coronavirus carriers. Approximately one third of those who received the message appealed; more than half of these were found to have been errors.

According to Health Ministry data, as of Monday afternoon, there were 28,424 active cases of coronavirus, with; 75 patients on ventilators and a death toll of 415.