Knesset Extends Shin Bet Tracking of Coronavirus Cases Until June 16

Israeli police and soldiers guard at a roadblock at the entrance to a neighborhood in Beit Shemesh on April 26. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

The Shin Bet will be allowed to continue electronic tracking of coronavirus patients and those in contact with them who are to be in quarantine until June 16, after the Knesset’s subcommittee for intelligence authorized the extension on Tuesday.

The committee determined that this authorization will expire in three weeks unless the government submits legislation by June 8. The committee also approved the Cabinet’s request to limit this surveillance to cases in which it is impossible to perform contact tracing of the patients by other means. Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Matters Raz Nizri said at the meeting that the decision to add the criteria for involving the Shin Bet resulted from a drop in the number of patients. If the number of new patients rises again, the government will ask for another extension.

Professor Sigal Sadecki, Professor of Medicine and Head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, highlighted the need for the Health Ministry to continue relying on the Shin Bet’s assistance, saying that while the duration of the epidemiologic investigation of those who test positive has greatly improved and it now takes a day and a quarter to complete, the Shin Bet’s tracking has been very useful since a person cannot remember or even be aware of everyone who came in contact with him during the previous 14 days, until the patient was diagnosed, while tracking the telephone signals can.

Committee chairman MK Zvi Hauser said that more than 4,000 patients were detected through the Shin Bet’s tracking, about a quarter of the cases detected in Israel. “That’s a high percentage of infection chains that wouldn’t otherwise have been interrupted,” he stated.