Knesset advances bill to allow quarantine monitoring via app

Authorities will be able to track location, hold video calls with people required to isolate; any who opt out will be subject to other measures, including quarantine hotels

Illustrative: A teenager looks at her mobile phone while quarantining (Maria Casinos; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative: A teenager looks at her mobile phone while quarantining (Maria Casinos; iStock by Getty Images)

A bill to allow police to electronically monitor all individuals requiring coronavirus quarantine through an app is making its way through the Knesset.

The bill was approved by parliament’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Thursday night and will now head for its second and third readings at the plenum before being signed into law.

The bill is meant to replace the electronic bracelet initiative, which did not see much success. It will enable location tracking of anyone required to quarantine — due to contact with a coronavirus carrier or returning from abroad. It will notify authorities of any potential breaking of quarantine, as well as allow them to hold video calls with individuals to ensure they are isolating.

Use of the app requires individuals’ consent. Anyone who wants to will be free to opt out, but will then be monitored through other means, including house calls by police. In some cases, those who opt out will be sent to special quarantine hotels to ensure they are keeping to the rules.

Friday saw new quarantine rules for arriving travelers take effect, with those now defined by the Health Ministry as immunized largely exempt from having to self-isolate for a week.

The easing of the quarantine rules was expected to be a boon for travel.

Under the new guidelines, which were announced Sunday as booster shots were made available to all Israelis eligible to be vaccinated, anyone who receives a third dose at least a week before traveling only has to quarantine for a day when returning, or upon receiving a negative test result.

Travelers are seen wearing face masks at Ben Gurion International Airport, on August 5, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ FLASH90)

The exemption also applies to those who have had their second vaccine dose within the last six months or those who recovered from COVID in the past half year. Following the six months, anyone who recovered must receive a vaccine shot to continue to be exempt from quarantine.

The relaxed quarantine rules do not apply to travelers coming home from “red” countries with high infection rates, where Israelis are currently barred from visiting without special permission.

Still, as infections soar throughout the country — Israel has now recorded over 10,000 new cases for four straight days — Portugal and Sweden have decided to bar entry to Israeli nationals. Some other European nations are expected to follow suit.

Israelis scheduled to fly Thursday to Portugal were prevented from checking in at Ben Gurion Airport. The Swedish ban will take effect on Monday, a representative from the Swedish embassy in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel.

Though vaccination rates in Israel are among the world’s highest, Portugal and Sweden have their eyes on the elevated case numbers and aren’t making exceptions for Israelis who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. The two countries only accept European Union vaccination certificates.

Their decisions came after the European Union on Monday removed Israel from a list of nations deemed “epidemiologically safe.”

Member states are not bound by the EU recommendation and Italy has decided to bar unvaccinated Israelis but welcome those with Israeli vaccination certificates.

The Netherlands, for its part, announced Friday that starting Saturday, only vaccinated Israelis will be allowed into the country and they must quarantine upon arrival. Beginning Monday, Israeli travelers must also present a negative coronavirus test result.

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