Knesset Panel Extends Shin Bet Coronavirus Tracking by Another Three Weeks

The Knesset’s secret service subcommittee approved a three-week extension on Tuesday of emergency regulations permitting the Shin Bet to trace people ill with the coronavirus so they can locate those with whom they may have been in contact.

The government had asked for a six-week extension of the measure on Monday, pending the completion of a legislative proposal as ordered by the High Court in a ruling last week.

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Professor Siegal Sadetzki, the head of public health at the Health Ministry, and Raz Nizri, the deputy attorney general, presented data at the session showing that 5,516 people who turned out to have coronavirus were located via tracing, 3,835 of them by the Shin Bet. They said that seven percent of those who received a message saying they were near a confirmed case were found to be infected as well.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat said in the debate that continuing the tracking was essential despite the decline in cases “because the potential for contagion has actually risen.

Israeli police forces wearing protective gear in Jerusalem, April 6, 2020. Ohad Zwigenberg

“We think that at this time despite the good data, it is precisely now when we need this tool to permit swift and surgical measures to break the chain of contagion and permit the people to go on with their lives,” he said.

Ben-Shabbat said the government has no other means by which to do this: “We are continuing to look for alternatives and using the Shin Bet for this purpose is not our first choice. If we can find a tool to answer this need, we will definitely adopt it.”