Israel to use anti-terror tech to counter coronavirus ‘invisible enemy’
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel plans to use anti-terrorism tracking technology and a partial shutdown of its economy to attenuate the danger of coronavirus transmission, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
Cyber tech monitoring would be deployed to locate people that are in touch with those carrying the virus, subject to cabinet approval, Netanyahu told a press conference in Jerusalem.
“We will very soon begin using technology … digital means we’ve been using so as to fight terrorism,” Netanyahu said. He said he had requested Justice Ministry approval because such measures could infringe patients’ privacy.
In an escalation of precautionary measures, Netanyahu’s government announced that malls, hotels, restaurants, and theaters will pack up from Sunday, and said employees shouldn’t attend their workplaces unless it had been necessary.
However vital services, pharmacies, supermarkets, and banks would still operate.
Health officials urged people to take care of social distancing and to not gather quite 10 people during a room.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic Security Service, confirmed that it had been examining the utilization of its technological capabilities to fight coronavirus, at the request of Netanyahu and therefore the Health Ministry.
Avner Pinchuk, a privacy expert with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said such capabilities could include real-time tracking of infected persons’ mobile phones to identify quarantine breaches and backtracking through meta-data to work out where that they had |they’d”> that they had been and who they had contacted.
“I am troubled by this announcement. I understand that we are in unique circumstances, but this seems potentially like over-reach. Much will depend upon how intrusive the new measures are,” said Pinchuk.
The Shin Bet , however, said in its statement that quarantine enforcement wasn’t on the table. “There is not any intention of using said technologies for enforcement or tracking within the context of isolation guidelines,” it said.
Netanyahu said it had been not a simple option to make and described the virus as an “invisible enemy that has got to be located.” He said Israel would follow similar methods employed by Taiwan.
“In all my years as prime minister I even have avoided using these means among the civilian public but there’s no choice,” Netanyahu said.
The latest announcement follows a series of ever-stricter restrictions imposed by Israel to contain the virus.
The Israeli military said earlier on Saturday that it had ordered all troops to be back on their bases by Sunday morning, which combat soldiers should steel oneself against a lengthy stick with no leave for up to a month.
Last week anyone entering Israel was ordered to self-isolate for 2 weeks and schools are shut. Tens of thousands of Israelis are presently quarantined.
Israel’s Health Ministry said 193 people have tested positive, with no fatalities. Many had been on international flights within the past fortnight.