Israel backs use of surveillance tools to track suspected virus cases
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Israel backs use of surveillance tools to track suspected virus cases

Cabinet approved technology's use on the civilian population for the next 30 days under an emergency order, as opposition figure brands it a 'hijacking' of due process.

Workers wearing protective suits disinfect a bus as a preventive measure amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv  Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX
Workers wearing protective suits disinfect a bus as a preventive measure amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX

Israeli leaders have approved the use of digital surveillance tools to keep track of residents thought to be ill with coronavirus.

The controversial measure lets officials see exactly where those who test positive have been and who they have met, in order to track who else may be infected.

Cyber surveillance through geo-tracking of mobile phones was developed by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, and is normally only used against terrorist suspects.

However the Israeli cabinet this week approved its use on the civilian population for the next 30 days under an emergency order.

Polls show that most Israelis trust the decision-making of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in relation to the coronavirus, but former army chief and opposition politician Gabi Ashkenazi, who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said the cabinet approval of the technology was a “hijacking” of due process.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel passed 300 by Tuesday morning, as Netanyahu told both public- and private-sector workers in companies with more than ten people to “work in shifts and from home”.

He said smaller companies could continue operating from the workspace provided employees kept to a distance of two metres from each other. Public gatherings of more than ten people have been banned.

Emergency services are now operating at maximum capacity and public transport services have been cut, as the Finance Ministry presented a series of measures to help struggling businesses.

Meanwhile the new Israeli parliament was sworn in at a closed ceremony by President Reuven Rivlin, who formally gave Opposition leader Benny Gantz the task of forming a new government. Gantz, who commands slightly more support in parliament than Netanyahu, now has up to six weeks to build a coalition.

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