Israel High Court to Debate Cyber Tracking Coronavirus Patients; 529 Cases Confirmed

As the highly contagious novel coronavirus spreads around the world, Israel and Palestinians struggle to contain a local outbreak that has virtually halted daily life and led to tens of thousands of people entering quarantine.

Bypassing the necessary approval from the Knesset, the government approved the tracking of cellphones by the Shin Bet security service in order to inform people who unwittingly came in contact with confirmed coronavirus patients.

■ 529 Israelis have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, with the vast majority of cases mild and 12 recoveries. Six patients are in serious condition. In the West Bank, 47 cases have been diagnosed so far, the majority of them in Bethlehem. Another 3,900 Palestinians have been placed in quarantine. 

■ Israel urged citizens to stay at home, shuttering cultural and recreational establishments as well as schools and universities and banning gatherings of over 10 people. The private sector sent home 70 percent of employees and the public sector is operating under a state of emergency. Read the complete guide to the lockdown 

■ All foreigners are not allowed to enter Israel, unless they can prove they are able to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Read the full guide for tourists and Israelis

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 69

Will Israel’s cyber spies let Bibi use coronavirus to kill democracy?Haaretz


12:50 A.M. Prime Minister's Office says equipment Mossad ordered were 'necessary and vital'

In response to reports that the Mossad had purchased 100,000 coronavirus testing kits with the wrong swabs, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying, "We are drawing upon all the state's resources to help in the fight against the coronavirus. This includes the Mossad and other institutions. The materials that were brought to Israel were necessary and vital."

11:55 A.M. Four prisoners in Megiddo prison isolated after suspected contact with coronavirus patient

Israel’s Prison Service said that four security prisoners in Megiddo prison were placed in isolation following suspected contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient from Israel’s security forces about a week ago.

The prisoners are not displaying any symptoms and have been quarantined in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines, the prison service said.

11:50 A.M. Mossad buys 100,000 testing kits with wrong swabs for coronavirus

The Mossad has purchased 100,000 coronavirus tests but the health ministry says they’re not the right type needed for this particular disease. Unfortunately what we just received is not exactly what we needed,” the ministry’s deputy director general said.

The Mossad said in response that “we will ascertain the needs through the health ministry." (Noa Landau and Ido Efrati)

11:30 A.M. Three more Palestinians test positive for virus in the West Bank 

Three more cases of the coronavirus were confirmed among Palestinians in the West Bank bringing the total number of cases to 47. Two of the new cases were found in Ramallah, and one in Nablus, while most of the previously confirmed cases were in Bethlehem.

The two patients in Ramallah returned from abroad and immediately entered home isolation, alleviating worries that they had spread the virus to others in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

11:00 A.M. High Court meets to discuss petitions against phone monitoring of confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients

The High Court convened an urgent hearing Thursday morning on the petitions against the new regulations that allow the General Security Services and the Israel Police to track coronavirus patients and people who were in contact with them through special technological means, and track their cellphones' cellular location data.

The petitions were filed by Adalah legal center and the Association for Civil Rights on the grounds that the regulations violate the privacy of the citizens in a disproportionate way.