Israel to monitor people’s movements if they are suspected of, or confirmed, having Coronavirus

Israel’s government has approved emergency measures to track people suspected, or confirmed, to have been infected with the coronavirus by monitoring their mobile phones, the Guardian reports.

The cabinet unanimously approved the use of the technology, developed initially for counterterrorism purposes. The authorities will use the data to notify people who may have come into contact with someone infected with the virus, and also to enforce quarantine orders.

The monitoring, established by using emergency powers (meaning bypassing the Knesset, the legislature), will be in effect for 30 days.

According to the Jerusalem Post, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that the measures infringe privacy rights, he said: “we will be able to see who they were with, what happened before and after [they were infected], and we will be able to isolate the coronavirus and not the entire country.”

“We are one of the few countries with this capability, and we will use it,” he said. "We must do everything, as a government and as citizens, to not become infected and not to infect others.”

Dr. Tehila Shwartz Altshuler, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, stressed in the Jerusalem Post that "We are in a state of emergency, but that does not mean that the State of Israel can be turned into a surveillance state. Gathering data and publishing warnings is one thing, but it is also important to preserve the right to privacy of Israeli citizens and the government use only proportionate tools.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are around 200 coronavirus patients in Israel.