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Israel Health Ministry says it’s begun controversial tracking of coronavirus patients

The Health Ministry announces it has started using mass surveillance tools to retrace the movements of coronavirus carriers and has already found some 400 people that were in contact with them and need to enter quarantine.

The electronic tracking program, which is being conducted by the Shin Bet security service for the ministry, has faced harsh criticism, including by members of the government, and its legality is currently being challenged in the High Court of Justice.

The process by which the contentious proposal was approved by the government — without promised parliamentary oversight — also led to allegations of a “power grab” by some politicians. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials say the measure is necessary to curb the spread of the disease.

“In order to make the process of conducting an epidemiological investigation more efficient, to shorten the process and accurately reach those who were in contact with a coronavirus carrier, we are starting to use technological tools,” the Health Ministry says, using a euphemism for the powerful surveillance program.

The ministry says the tracking system has already identified some 400 people who were in contact with known carriers of the disease.

“In the message, they were informed of the date that they were near the sick person and the fact that the must enter home-quarantine immediately,” the Health Ministry says.

After the fact, the coronavirus carriers were also informed that they had been tracked by the government.

Header: Israeli border police wear protective gear and masks at the Ein Yael Checkpoint, near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )