Coronavirus restrictions may be tightened amid wave of infection

Government seeks legal authority to control public behavior in public and private spaces under the threat of a second coronavirus outbreak.

Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The number of daily coronavirus patients soared to 101 new cases on Friday, meaning that the country might need to return to extreme measures such as lockdown and curbing public gatherings to prevent further infections.  
To do so without resorting to emergency protocols which are usually reserved for wartime and grant the government a great deal of authority to face a real and immediate threat to national security, the newly-formed government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz seeks to legislate extra measures it could use for a period of 10-months, Ynet reported on Friday.  
One such new law being discussed would allow Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to restrict and cancel meetings between lawyers and prison inmates facing trial. The reason given was that this will prevent the virus from spreading in a dense population such as in prison. The new power would also include the ability to forbid family members and other persons from visiting those in prison.  
Ohana, if the law is approved, will be able to use his authority to ban such visits for a 30-day period if the Health Ministry recommends it, the head of the Prison Authority or Chief of Police suggests it, and following a discussion with Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn.
The report does not include any discussion of how inmates are meant to get access to legal counsel and representation during these 30 days.  
Head of the Israel Bar Association Avi Himi implored Ohana in a public letter not to damage the right to legal representation and hinted that it appears to be an attempt to “ride the wave” of the coronavirus. He also pointed out that to release a legal change of such importance on Tuesday and allow the public until Thursday to respond makes it impossible for any professional legal body to offer an analysis within only three days.  
Himi also pointed out that currently, the Prison Authority is upholding the Health Ministry regulations to prevent infection of prison inmates, which makes the limitation very strange in his eyes. 
During the first wave of coronavirus, the Shin Bet was asked to monitor the location of citizens to better pin-point whom they came in touch with to prevent further infections. The measure was seen as invasive and eventually, the court ruled that if such a measure is needed, the government must legislate it and not use it with the backing of the emergency protocol.