Published: 10:18, June 22, 2020 | Updated: 00:02, June 6, 2023
Netanyahu weighs renewing COVID-19 tracking tool
By Agencies

Passengers, wearing protective masks due to COVID-19, wait for their train at a railway station in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on June 22, 2020 as the country resumes train services following three months of closure. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

RAMALLAH / ADEN / NEW DELHI / ANKARA / SEOUL / KUWAIT CITY / HANOI / ULAN BATOR  Israel is considering renewing its controversial use of government spy technology to help fight a surge in coronavirus cases.

“We know this topic is problematic, but on the other hand, we know it contributed greatly to keeping the epidemic in check,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a meeting of cabinet ministers handling the virus outbreak.

Earlier in the year, Israel authorized the country’s domestic security agency to use counterterrorism tracking technology to retrace the encounters of virus patients

Algorithms and artificial intelligence have been mobilized around the world to fight a pandemic that’s threatening millions of lives. But there’s also the fear that surveillance measures normally used against terrorists and criminals will also be mobilized to track dissenters and infringe on individuals’ privacy.

Earlier in the year, Israel authorized the country’s domestic security agency to use counterterrorism tracking technology to retrace the encounters of virus patients. Critics called it a dangerous precedent, and its use was discontinued after the outbreak tapered off.

The understanding was that it could be deployed again if infections surged and legislation governing its deployment were passed. But Israel’s Channel 12 released recordings on Sunday of Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman expressing reluctance to renew its use. An irate Netanyahu called for investigating the source of that leak from a cabinet meeting.

Over 20,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel, including more than 300 fatalities. The number has steadily risen from less than 17,000 a month ago after restrictions were significantly eased and many people ignored Health Ministry guidelines on masks and social distancing.

The prime minister said he is considering “dramatically” intensifying enforcement of guidelines meant to keep infection from spreading, including through higher fines. He’s also weighing localized lockdowns and renewed limitations on public gatherings, while the Health Ministry prepares for a major surge in ventilator patients, he said.

While the number of deaths has not spiraled, Netanyahu said Sunday that the forecasts he was given over the weekend were all “harsh.” He gave no further details.

New Zealand

New Zealand on Monday extended a ban on cruise ships arriving in the country and tightened measures for visitors to exit quarantine, after reporting more coronavirus cases linked to overseas travel.

The country, which has recorded just 22 deaths from COVID-19, was among the first in the world to end all restrictions after declaring it had no active cases, but has seen a small number of new cases in recent days.

Cargo vessels will still be allowed to load and unload, fishing vessels to unload and resupply, and vessels can come to New Zealand to undertake repairs and refitting, Ardern said, although some quarantine rules would be tightened.

New Zealand reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, both in managed isolation facilities, taking the total number of active cases to nine.

All active cases are people staying in quarantine facilities after entering the country, and there has so far been no evidence of community transmission.

New Zealand has recorded 1,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in total.

People cross a traffic intersection in the central business district of Sydney on June 18, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


Australian officials tried to contain a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus on Monday, telling residents in the cluster hotspots to avoid travel outside their suburbs in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.

Victoria state of which Melbourne is the capital has recorded double digit rises in new COVID-19 infections, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the 126 cases detected nationally over the past week.

The Victorian government has said it would reimpose restrictions on social gatherings after the surge in new cases it says has been caused by family get-togethers attended by people with mild symptoms.

Officials have also criticised people who have gone shopping while awaiting COVID-19 test results.

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, told residents to avoid travelling to hotspots in neighbouring Victoria as the winter school holidays approach.

Despite the spike in cases in Victoria, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged states and territories to continue removing the bulk of social distancing restrictions by the end of July.

Australia had reported nearly 7,500 coronavirus cases and 102 deaths as of Sunday.

People wait at a bus stop in Bangkok on June 18, 2020, as sectors of the Thai economy are being reopened following restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19. (PHOTO / AFP)


Thailand on Monday reported three new coronavirus cases, all imported, marking 28 days without local transmission, a senior official said.

The three new cases were Thai nationals returning from India and were detected in state quarantine, said spokesman for the government's Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Taweesin Wisanuyothin.

Thailand has so far recorded 58 deaths related to COVID-19 among 3,151 infections, of which 3,022 patients have recovered.

Taweesin said the administration was coordinating with Myanmar authorities regarding 23 coronavirus cases found among migrants deported from Thailand.

CCSA said on Monday that the Thai government is currently working into details of granting several types of foreigners into Thailand.

The first group of inbound travelers will have to undertake 14 day state quarantine as soon as they enter Thailand, said the CCSA spokesman.

This group of inbound travelers include businessmen, investors, skilled laborers, foreigners married to Thais and permanent residents of Thailand.

Taweesin said the second group of inbound travelers, who won't need the 14 day quarantine, include businessmen and government guests on short-duration stays.

A private security guard checks the temperature of Catholic devotees as arrive to attend a Holy Mass service at the Saint Joseph's Church in Hyderabad on June 8, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


India's federal health ministry Monday morning said 445 new deaths due to COVID-19, besides fresh 14,821 positive cases, were reported during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 13,699 and total cases to 425,282.

"As on 8:00 a.m. (local time) Monday, 13,699 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," said information released by the ministry.

On Sunday morning the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 410,461, and the death toll 13,254.

According to ministry officials, so far 237,196 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.

"The number of active cases in the country right now is 174,387," reads the information.


Iran's confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 204,952 on Sunday after an overnight registration of 2,368 new infections, state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Sima Sadat Lari, the spokeswoman for Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education, said at the daily briefing that out of the new cases in the past 24 hours, 1,114 have been hospitalized.

The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 9,623 Iranians, up by 116 in the past 24 hours.

Besides, 163,591 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals while 2,887 remain in critical condition.

According to Lari, 1,422,407 lab tests for COVID-19 have been carried out in Iran as of Sunday.

ALSO READ: South Korea limits entry for foreigners as virus cases jump


Turkey's confirmed COVID-19 cases Sunday increased by 1,192, and 23 more people died, taking the death toll to 4,950, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Sunday.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 187,685 in the country, the minister tweeted.

Meanwhile, 1,412 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, making the total number of recovered cases 160,240, he stated.

Koca said 40,496 tests were conducted over the past day, and the overall number of tests reached 2,945,240.

Turkey is currently treating 803 patients in intensive care units, with 327 people intubated, Koca noted.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia registered on Sunday 3,379 new coronavirus cases, raising the total infections in the kingdom to 157,612.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus rose to 1,267 after 37 new fatalities were added, while 2,213 more recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 101,130, the health ministry tweeted.

Among the 55,215 active cases are 2,027 in critical condition, according to the ministry.

People in Saudi Arabia ventured out on Sunday night for the first time in three months to celebrate the end of a nationwide coronavirus curfew, dining out, cruising on motorcycles and walking pets after the daytime heat subsided.

The kingdom introduced stringent measures in March to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, including 24-hour curfews in most towns and cities, with most people only allowed out for essential shopping or urgent medical reasons.

Saudi Arabia began a phased easing of restrictions on movement and business activity in May and lifted its curfew rules entirely on Sunday.

Some restaurants put on musical performances to mark the occasion.

Some restrictions remain in place, including a ban on social gatherings of more than 50 people. The country’s borders are still closed to international travel and the Islamic umrah pilgrimage remains suspended.

For many, being able to enjoy the evening breeze was enough.


Qatar's health ministry on Sunday announced 881 new infections of COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 87,369.

"Some 1,556 people recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 68,319, while four others died, increasing the fatalities to 98," the official Qatar News Agency reported, quoting a statement by the ministry.

It revealed that infections had doubled due to people's gatherings and visits, and ignoring of preventive measures recommended by the government, the most important of which are staying at home and maintaining social distancing.

A total of 320,792 people in Qatar have undergone lab tests for COVID-19 so far, it added.

The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday announced 392 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 44,925.

UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement 661 more patients have made full recovery from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE's recoveries to 32,415.

The ministry also confirmed one more death, pushing the country's death toll to 302.

Dubai will allow tourists into the Middle East business hub starting July 7 for the first time since the United Arab Emirates imposed travel restrictions to stem the outbreak.

“Tourists required to present recent Covid-19 negative certificate or undergo testing at Dubai airports,” the Dubai Media Office said on Sunday.

The city also will allow residents stuck abroad to begin returning on Monday. Citizens and residents can resume outbound travel from June 23, according to a tweet.


Kuwait on Monday reported 641 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths, raising its tally of infections to 40,291 and the death toll to 330.

The new cases included 383 Kuwaiti nationals and 258 residents of other nationalities, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 8,191 patients are receiving treatment, including 181 in ICU, according to the statement. The ministry also announced the recovery of 530 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 31,770.

On June 18, Kuwait decided to ease the restrictions which were imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19.


Iraqi Health Ministry on Sunday reported 1,646 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak of the disease in the country to 30,868.

The statement also reported 87 deaths during the day, as the total number of deaths climbed to 1,100 in the country, while 13,935 patients have recovered.

The new cases were recorded after 10,027 testing kits were used across the country during the past 24 hours, and a total of 445,241 tests have been carried out, according to the statement.


The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Israel has doubled since early June, according to figures released by Israeli Ministry of Health on Sunday.

It said 209 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Israel, compared with 105 on June 1.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel increased to 20,778, with 145 new patients, while the death toll rose from 305 to 306, and the number of patients in serious condition remained 40.

The total recoveries rose to 15,694 after 35 new ones were added, while the number of active cases rose to 4,778, the highest since May 10.

Earlier on Sunday, the ministry ordered hospitals in the country to reopen coronavirus units immediately amid the new wave of cases.


Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Sunday by 51 cases to 1,587 while the death toll remained 32, the National News Agency reported.

The number of infected residents reached 19 while cases among arrivals reached 32.

The health ministry has, on many occasions, urged people to take proper precautionary measures to better contain the virus.

Lebanon has been fighting against COVID-19 since Feb. 21.

The country has received several donations from different countries for the fight against COVID-19.


Palestine on Sunday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the West Bank, bringing the total number of infections in the Palestinian territories to 1,028.

According to a statement by the Palestinian Health Ministry, 46 new cases were confirmed in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, raising the tally of infections in the district to 401, of which 76 have fully recovered.

The three other new cases were found in the northern West Bank's Nablus and Tulkarem districts.

All of the patients are in a stable condition except for one case from Hebron that was admitted into intensive care unit, the ministry said.


The total number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen's government-controlled provinces increased to 941 on Sunday after 19 new cases were added.

The Yemeni Health Ministry said in a brief statement that during the past 24 hours, the number of recoveries in the government-controlled areas has risen to 347 since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on April 10.

The government also announced that the death toll from the deadly respiratory disease climbed to 256 in different areas under its control, including the southern port city of Aden.

The Yemeni government has taken several measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing a partial overnight curfew in Aden and other major cities under its control.


Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 262 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 42,095.

Of the new cases, 97 percent are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.

On Sunday, 718 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 34,942 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.


Brunei reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday with the national tally of cases standing at 141, which marked the 45th consecutive day without new cases since May 7.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, no active cases are being treated at the National Isolation Center and all close contacts of patients have completed the 14-day quarantine period.

There have been three deaths resulted from COVID-19 in Brunei and a total of 138 patients have recovered. 

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The total number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has risen to 290, with three more confirmed cases reported on Sunday, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

According to the release, the newly confirmed cases are returnees who were under quarantine after their recent arrivals from Qatar.

As of Sunday, a total of 62,070 samples were tested for COVID-19 and 5,712 patients are under investigation at present, the ministry's figures showed.

According to the ministry's release, 200 patients have recovered from the disease so far.

South Korea

Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time on Monday it is in the midst of a “second wave” of novel coronavirus infections around Seoul, driven by small but persistent outbreaks stemming from a holiday in May.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) had previously said South Korea’s first wave had never really ended.

But on Monday, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the densely populated greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases.

At the end of February, South Korea reported a peak of more than 900 cases in a day.

An intensive tracking and testing campaign reduced the numbers to single digits by late April.

But just as the country announced it would be easing social distancing guidelines in early May, new cases spiked, driven in part by infections among young people who visited nightclubs and bars in Seoul over the holiday weekend.

As of midnight Sunday, South Korea reported 17 new coronavirus cases, the first time in nearly a month that daily new cases had dropped below 20. It was a drop from the 48 and 67 cases reported in the previous two days.

South Korea has reported a total of 12,438 cases, with 280 deaths.


The municipal government of Mongolia's capital here on Monday reopened museums and libraries across the city, relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions imposed in late February.

"In order to support the capital city's economy, we have reopened service organizations in stages. This time, we decided to open 11 libraries and 12 museums across the capital city from today," Sainbuyan Amarsaikhan, mayor of Ulan Bator, told a press conference.

As of Monday, Mongolia has confirmed 213 COVID-19 patients, according to the country's National Center for Communicable Disease. No local transmissions or deaths have been reported in the country so far.


Afghanistan's Public Health Ministry has confirmed 310 new COVID-19 positive cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 29,143 in the country, spokesman for the ministry Sayedudin Jami said Monday.

According to the official, 12 patients died over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 598 since the outbreak of the disease in February in Afghanistan.

Jami added that 77 more patients have recovered, bringing the number of recoveries to 8,841.


Kazakhstan will impose a two-day lockdown in the northern city of Kostanay and four nearby towns next weekend after a jump in fresh COVID-19 cases, local newspaper Kostanayskiye Novosti reported on Monday.

Residents of Kostanay and the four towns, including mining hubs Rudny and Lisakovsk, will be barred from leaving their houses except for work or urgent necessities on June 27-28, the newspaper reported, citing local authorities.

The move continues a trend towards weekend restrictions in the oil-rich nation of 19 million which has seen the number of COVID-19 cases more than quintuple to about 28,000 since lifting a nationwide lockdown in mid-May.

Kazakhstan temporarily closed shopping malls, markets, parks and public transit in major cities last weekend to curb the spread of the virus while minimizing the impact on the economy and shutting public areas on the days when they usually see the biggest crowds.

Neighboring Kyrgyzstan has said it would use the same approach.


Kyrgyzstan confirmed 205 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the total number of infections in the country to 3,356.

A total of 2,289 laboratory tests were conducted in the country in the last 24 hours, which detected 205 new cases, Health Minister Sabirzhan Abdikarimov told a news briefing.

He said that of the newly confirmed cases, 26 are medical workers, bringing the total number of infected medical workers to 582, including 387 recoveries.


The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 954 within one day to 46,845, with the death toll adding by 35 to 2,500, Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official, said at a press conference here on Monday.

According to him, 331 more people had been discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 18,735.

Within the past 24 hours, five provinces, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, Jakarta, East Java and South Sulawesi, recorded high numbers of cases, Yurianto said.

Yurianto called on the public to obey the implemented health protocols in a bid to avoid more COVID-19 infections.

Sri Lanka

The number of COVID-19 recoveries in Sri Lanka surpassed the 1,500-mark on Monday after 28 patients were discharged from hospital, health ministry statistics showed.

According to the health ministry, to date, 1,950 people have been infected with the virus after the first local patient was detected in March out of which 1,526 patients have recovered, bringing down the total active cases to 424.

A total of 11 deaths have been reported from the virus in the country so far.

The Philippines

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 30,682 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 630 more infections on Monday.

The DOH said in its bulletin that the number of recoveries further rose to 8,143 after 250 more patients have survived the disease.

The death toll also increased to 1,177 after eight more patients have succumbed to the disease, the DOH added.

According to the DOH, 174 of the daily reported cases were in Metro Manila and 257 cases in the Central Visayas region in the central Philippines.


Vietnam reported no new cases of COVID-19 infection for the third consecutive day on Monday, with its total confirmed cases remaining at 349 with zero deaths so far, according to its Ministry of Health.

One more patient was announced clear of the disease on Monday, bringing the total cured cases in the country to 328, Vietnam News Agency cited the ministry as reporting.

Vietnam has recorded no local transmission for 67 straight days while there are over 6,500 people being quarantined and monitored in the country, according to the report.