Israel approves militant-tracking tech for tracking coronavirus carriers

Women taking a selfie as they wear face masks in Tel Aviv. (AP pic)

TEL AVIV: Israel’s government approved the use of technology to track the movements of coronavirus patients for 30 days, a controversial step in the country’s fight against the fast-spreading illness.

The cabinet debated the use of this technology for six hours, placing “strict oversight” over the tools “to ensure that they would not be abused,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night.

Critics of the idea say this use of technology developed to track militants constitutes a dangerous precedent and an invasion of Israeli citizens’ privacy.

“These means will greatly assist us in locating patients and thereby stop the spread of the virus,” Netanyahu said.

“Israel is a democracy. We must preserve the balance between individual rights and general needs, and we are doing so.”

Netanyahu announced further economic restrictions on Monday night as the number of coronavirus infections in Israel rises steadily, to 298 at the latest count, with no fatalities.

Short of a total lockdown, the measures will last until the end of the Passover holiday in mid-April.

The government plans to drastically reduce the number of public sector employees in offices, sending many on forced vacation.

Private businesses will have to cut the number of employees in their workplaces by 70%.

Essential services like supermarkets, pharmacies and banks will continue to operate as normal.

“I am not declaring a general closure,” Netanyahu said. “I very much hope that we will not come to that.”

Restrictions on Palestinians entering the country to work will be tightened beginning on Wednesday.

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