Coronavirus: Knesset okays electronic bracelet for returnees from abroad

Number of serious patients drops to 574, lowest level since December.

A woman and her dog are seen on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem after the coronavirus lockdown ends, on February 8, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A woman and her dog are seen on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem after the coronavirus lockdown ends, on February 8, 2021.
All Israelis returning from abroad can be required to wear an electronic bracelet to ensure that they isolate at home, or be quarantined in a hotel, according to a bill approved by the Knesset on Wednesday.
The legislation gave the government authorization to force those who enter the country from abroad or from specific countries to choose between the two options, except for children under 14 and other special humanitarian cases.
All those currently entering the country are required to isolate, unless they present a vaccination or a recovery certificate issued by the Israeli Health Ministry. Those who were inoculated or who recovered abroad can be released from the quarantine if they undergo a serological test to prove their level of antibodies.
Electronic devices have already been in use for several weeks on a voluntary basis to ensuring that people do not break the quarantine.
According to the bill, the operation is carried out by private companies on behalf of the ministry. The information collected is stored in servers owned by the government but maintained by the companies, and will be deleted at the end of the period if there is no report of infraction, or no longer than 30 days.
The company will inform the authorities if the person appears to leave their house.
The bracelet cannot monitor any details about the person wearing it, except whether they are complying with their quarantine, according to SuperCom president and CEO Ordan Trabelsi.
Should the quarantine be violated, the devices won’t track the person’s location but will alert authorities that the person has left the confined area where they were supposed to remain throughout the duration of the quarantine.
The bill has been considered an essential tool to step up quarantine enforcement, which the authorities have described as essential to reopening Israeli borders, at least to its citizens.
While the Knesset was passing the new law, the Supreme Court ruled that the current regulations limiting the number of Israelis who can enter the country every day be canceled. The court also canceled the requirement that those who are not vaccinated and wish to leave, including children, seek permission from a special governmental committee. According to the ruling, the regulations will be canceled beginning on Sunday.
According to reports in Israeli media, government officials met on Wednesday afternoon and evening to try to find a solution to maintain some limit on the ability of people to travel, to prevent new virus variants from entering the country.
Meanwhile,  the number of serious patients and the COVID-19 reproduction rate dropped to their lowest level in months. Serious cases in Israel dropped below 600 for the first time since December, according to the Health Ministry’s report.
Some 578 active patients were in severe condition, of whom 263 are in critical condition and 214 were intubated. These last two figures were in line with the previous days. The death toll was 6,053, with 13 people succumbing to COVID-19 in 24 hours, also similar to previous days.
Meanwhile, some 1,538 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Tuesday, marking another significant decrease from the 2,108 cases identified on Monday and the 2,416 last Thursday, with a similar number of tests administered.
A total of 72,600 tests were taken on Tuesday with 2.1% positive, the lowest rate since December. In addition, the reproduction rate – which measures how many people each virus carrier infects on average – stood at 0.7, also the lowest in months.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced in the morning that over four million Israeli citizens are eligible to receive the coronavirus green passport that grants entry to restaurants, gyms and theaters, and exempts holders from quarantine.
More than 5.1 million Israelis have received at least their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, 4.3 have received two shots, and another million are eligible to be vaccinated.
“We see how effective the vaccine is, and how dangerous coronavirus can be,” he tweeted. “We see already some places open only to green passport holders – isn’t it a shame that you are left behind?”
While the numbers have been dropping, Israel’s Military Intelligence warned the public against losing vigilance, and urged people to continue abiding by restrictions of social distancing and wearing masks.
More than half of the people reported to be infected on Tuesday were reportedly under the age of 19, with many of them under the age of 16, a demographic that is not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.