image Photo: Flash90

Israel to use counter-terror methods against COVID-19

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that highly sophisticated surveillance will soon be implemented to compel compliance by those refusing to adhere to government mandates regarding self-quarantine to halt spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus.

After stating there is no other option than employment of “digital means” among the “civilian public” following “years” of ‘avoidance,’ the Premier said that the same methods used to track terrorists will be used to locate infected individuals. This step, he said, is being taken following a request from the Ministry of Health.

“We are now fighting a war that requires us to take special measures,” said the Israeli leader, explaining that “to that end, I asked the approval of the Justice ministry for these steps. They are not simple. There is a certain infringement on the privacy of those people that we will check with whom they came in contact, also as patients, what preceded this? What came after this? This gives us a very, very effective tool for detecting the enemy, the virus, and trying to isolate it instead of isolating the entire country.”

Following a lengthy discussion by the incumbent cabinet in Jerusalem, a decision was made to authorize the Shin Bet Security Agency to utilize the extreme espionage measures to monitor the general public. It is important to mention, however, that Netanyahu rejected an initial draft out of concern that sensitive information could be exploited. The eventual order that was adopted restricts the Shin Bet from actively enforcing quarantine procedures, and – “in any case, the authorization will be valid for no more than 30 days from the approval of the decision by the Israeli Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Secret Services.”

In the meantime, the national police has been tasked with apprehending Israelis suspected of violating the government-imposed quarantine. Footage surfaced purporting to show a 47-year-old man in Tel Aviv who was tracked down and arrested when he refused to observe self-isolation. Police Spokesman Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld highlighted to TV7 that the suspect was detained as part of ongoing efforts by both the force and Health Ministry agents to ensure that all those under quarantine are observing the uncompromising directive.

Unlike many other nations, Israel has been able to trace the source of all exposures and has not yet encountered any infections of unknown origin. This, according to a briefing to the interim cabinet by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, who further revealed that the IDF Home Front Command has been mobilized “to assist local authorities, assist hotlines and the Magen David Adom [emergency paramedical service]” as a means “to improve these centers’ ability to function.”

Supermarkets have been packed nationwide as the population rushes to stock up on provisions out of concerns that a nationwide curfew may eventually go into effect. Even though she said that many grocery store shelves are already empty, shopper Bridget Reuben told Reuters that she was able to purchase canned goods, frozen items and other items, because “we think we are going to be on lockdown, that they are about to tell us that we won’t be able to leave our houses for the next two weeks.” Another consume identified as Fernando Seixas said he was doing the same, because “you hear a lot of bad news” and “you don’t want to take the risk” of running out of provisions at home.

Parents are facing another major challenge of how to balance work and caring for their children, in the wake of the nationwide closure of of all educational facilities, including kindergartens, until further notice. Business owner Itamar Pantz commented that “we have to figure out what to do with our children and what to do with our businesses, with our workers, because they have their children in their homes, as well. And we need to figure out who is supposed to go home, what we’re supposed to do with our life – staying at home if both parents are working – and so it’s a bit problematic.”

At a time when prayers are most appreciated, the Chief Rabbi at Judaism’s holiest site, announced that the ancient compound are still permitted, albeit within government restrictions. “The Western Wall Plaza, even in this condition, will remain open. Obviously, we are acting based on the instruction of the health ministry, when every group, every Minyan (the requisite number of ten worshippers to hold Jewish prayer) will have its own area to pray in, with separation of two meters between each section,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.