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Quarantine hotels to close as ministers advance electronic bracelet bill

Timing of legislation leaves gap with no supervision of Israelis flying home; hotels to only be used for those who refuse bracelets or can’t isolate at home

Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electronic bracelets upon arrival in Israel, on March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electronic bracelets upon arrival in Israel, on March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ministers are expected to vote next week on advancing legislation requiring those returning to Israel to self-isolate at home with an electronic bracelet, as the law forcing returnees to stay in government-run quarantine hotels expires Sunday.

Due to the uncoordinated schedules, there may be a period of some two weeks where returnees will be sent to home isolation without any additional supervision, Channel 12 reported Thursday.

According to a draft of the bill, those who refuse to wear a bracelet, or are unable to self-isolate at home, will be required to stay at one of the government-run quarantine hotels as an alternative.

Additionally, ministers will vote on lowering the age for those who will be required to be under electronic supervision, from 18 down to 14.

Around 100 people participated in an electronic bracelet pilot program last week. The bracelets monitored their location to ensure they adhered to Health Ministry guidelines through their two-week quarantine period.

Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electronic bracelets upon arrival in Israel, on March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

If the program is approved for wider use, all arrivals will be tested for coronavirus at Ben Gurion Airport, and if the tests come back negative, they will be able to receive the bracelet. The bracelet can be worn on either the wrist or ankle.

Currently, the key issue with the program is the limited number of bracelets, and the Health Ministry is looking into other alternatives, such as an app that will require self-isolators to report their location at random times, Channel 12 reported.

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

The bracelet monitors the wearers’ location via Bluetooth and GPS and connects to a provided cellphone.

Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electronic bracelets upon arrival in Israel, on March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Health Ministry officials are examining the possibility of having a daily charge of NIS 15 ($4.5 USD) for the bracelet, on top of a deposit when receiving the tracking kit, the Walla news site reported.

“Ensuring those who enter Israel abide by the isolation requirements will help reduce the entry and spread of the infection brought from abroad,” it said in the draft of the law.

“Establishing an obligation of technological tracking during home isolation, and an alternative of staying in a [government-run quarantine] hotel, is an essential step toward reducing the spread of infection in Israel and returning to normalcy,” it added.

Passengers are tested for the coronavirus upon arrival in Israel, on March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Travelers carrying documentation showing they have completed a two-shot virus vaccination or those who have recovered from the virus 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.

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 coronavirus infections in the country.

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