Monday, March 23, 2020

Israel joins countries using cellphone tech to manage COVID-19, but does it work?

There have been mixed reactions to Israel's enforced use of cellphone surveillance to trace and manage COVID-19 cases. Netanyahu's cabinet passed the measure in the middle of the night earlier this week, circumventing a parliamentary oversight committee that was still debating the justification of the move. Israelis are split between forgiving the imposition in the interests of strong measures needed in a crisis situation, and a worry about creeping government overreach and invasion of privacy and civil rights.
What's interesting, though, is that it doesn't seem to be particularly effective. As of March 22nd, Israel has 1,071 confirmed cases. For comparison, with approximately 4 times the population, Canada has 1,472 cases on the same date.
Granted the Israeli death rate is much better (1 confirmed death, compared to Canada's 21) but as a method of reducing cases, can Israel's controversial methods be said to be working (and therefore justifiable)? China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have been using similar technology for some time with apparently impressive results, although it is difficult to tease apart the effects of this particular string of their COVID-19 approach from the others. Other countries, including the USA, are considering the idea, although privacy concerns in the West tend to be much stronger.

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