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Health Ministry to test electronic bracelets as alternative to hotel quarantine

In pilot program, location monitor will be distributed to 100 people arriving in Israel from abroad

The arrival hall at the almost empty Ben Gurion International Airport on January 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
The arrival hall at the almost empty Ben Gurion International Airport on January 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Wednesday it will launch a pilot program to allow returnees from abroad who do not want to quarantine at government-run hotels to isolate at home with an electronic bracelet.

Around 100 people will participate in the pilot program. The bracelets will monitor their location to ensure they are adhering to Health Ministry guidelines through their two-week quarantine period.

If the pilot program is successful, arrivals will be tested for the virus in Ben Gurion Airport, and if negative, will be able to receive the bracelet. The bracelet can be worn on either the wrist or ankle.

The ministry said in a statement the idea is “to provide more efficient alternatives to arrivals in the country, and out of a desire to limit harm to personal freedoms.”

The bracelet will monitor the wearers’ location via Bluetooth and GPS technology and connect to the users’ cell phone, Channel 13 reported.

Ministers approved early Wednesday the reinstatement of a compulsory quarantine period in special government-run hotels for all those arriving from abroad, a day after the previous regulations on the matter expired.

The coronavirus cabinet, a narrow forum of ministers tasked with forming policy to deal with the virus outbreak, approved the hotel quarantine via a telephone vote, according to a joint statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

A traveler approaches a medic to be sampled while testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, upon arrival at the rapid testing center in Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The coronavirus cabinet approved the hotel quarantine rule until March 9. As was previously the case, quarantine is for 14 days, or 10 days for those who have two negative tests during that period.

However, travelers carrying documentation showing they have completed the two-shot virus vaccination, or those who have recovered from the disease, will be able to skip quarantine provided they have a virus test just before, and on arrival in the country, with both tests being negative.

Any other requests for exemption from staying in the hotels can be taken by returning travelers to a special Health Ministry committee located at Ben Gurion Airport, the country’s main international terminus. Exemptions are granted to young children traveling alone, the elderly, pregnant women, and other similar cases in which staying at the hotels would be impractical.

Israel’s land and air gateways have been largely closed since January 25, with Ben Gurion Airport shuttered for all but a few special flights by Israeli airlines to bring back citizens stranded abroad. Health officials are concerned that more contagious strains of the coronavirus could arrive in the country from abroad, as is the case with the so-called British mutation which now accounts for almost all new COVID-19 infections in the country.

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