ISA Surveillance of COVID-19 Patients to Be Halted, at Least For Now

The tracking will not be enshrined in law, as required by Israel's Supreme Court, so the mandate for the program will expire in the coming days  

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Israel's government on June 8 decided not to promote the passage of a law that would have allowed the country's internal security service to continue using its technological capabilities to track COVID-19 patients. As a result, the program will be halted in the coming days, reports in the Israeli media said. 

The country's Supreme Court ruled in that the surveillance could not continue unless it was enshrined in law.   

The director of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), Nadav Argaman, said at the meeting that there is "discomfort" in the agency regarding the surveillance of confirmed carriers by tracking their mobile phones. However, he said the agency would be ready if there is another outbreak of the virus, and that a law could be passed quickly if needed. 

The emergency regulations enabling the ISA to conduct the surveillance were passed in January. Under the program, the agency uses its tracking capabilities to locate those who come into contact with COVID-19 carriers, and then hands over the information to the Heath Ministry, which contacts those citizens and instructs them to go into quarantine.   

In January, after the regulations were approved, ISA Director Argaman said, "The ISA accepted the request of the professional echelon of the Health Ministry out of national responsibility and understanding that we have the means to help save the lives of the citizens of the State of Israel. The request was accepted by the ISA after it became clear that other authorities in the country do not have the technological capabilities required to assist in this effort."

Health ministry officials have said that if not for the surveillance program, many of those who came into contact with COVID-19 carriers would not have been identified and quarantined.