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Active cases hit another all-time high: 79,084

Coronavirus patients’ info given to Shin Bet without their knowledge

Phone location data for some 144,000 people sent without notice due to a ‘technical error’; inoculation drive continues to grow with second dose

A man speaks on his mobile phone at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, December 23, 2020. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
A man speaks on his mobile phone at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, December 23, 2020. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

The  Shin Bet security service received the phone location data of 144,870 Israelis confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 during December and January, without their consent and without them being notified of the tracking.

Under an agreement between them, the Health Ministry sends the Shin Bet the names, ID numbers and contact details of those diagnosed with COVID-19. The security agency can then go back through two weeks of data to determine what cellphones were within a two-meter (six-foot) radius of the sick person for more than 15 minutes. They are then alerted and ordered to self-quarantine.

The law allowing the Shin Bet to track coronavirus carriers requires the Health Ministry to notify them of the actions.

The Health Ministry announced that it failed to notify individuals tracked between December 13 and January 12 due to a “technical error,” and said it would begin to retroactively disclose the information to those who did not receive a notice.

“The malfunction had no epidemiological consequences and it only concerns the notifications that inform patients of the transfer of their details for technological examination,” a Health Ministry spokesperson told the Ynet news site Friday.

The Shin Bet will stop using its controversial phone surveillance measures to help track down potential coronavirus carriers from January 20, according to the Kan public broadcaster, as Israel continues to ramp up its vaccination drive to bring an end to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The latest number given by officials for the first vaccination dose was 1,992,806 — about 22 percent of the population — with another 169,707 who received the second dose — roughly 2%.

Israelis age 50 and up began to receive their coronavirus shots through their health care providers Wednesday, pushing the country ahead in the global vaccination race, with the highest vaccination rate in the world by far, according to the Our World In Data website.

A chart featuring the leading countries in COVID-19 vaccinations administered per capita, according to the Our World In Data website, January 15, 2021. (Screenshot)

Updated figures published Friday morning by the Health Ministry said 9,192 new cases had been confirmed Thursday, continuing the trend of around 9,000 a day over the last week. However, the rate of positive tests, 7.7 percent, was roughly half of the record reached in September. The number of daily tests has grown dramatically and stood at 123,111 on Thursday.

Initial figures for Friday showed a similar positivity rate of 7.2% — 1,807 cases out of 25,230 tests conducted by 10 a.m.

The number of total cases since the pandemic began, which passed half a million Monday, reached 533,026, including 79,084 active cases — a new all-time record. Of them, 1,141 people were in serious condition, including 351 listed as being critical and 291 on ventilators.

The death toll surged to 3,892 — an increase of 49 since Thursday morning.

By late March, Israel will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus, according to a plan drawn up by the Health Ministry.

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