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Israel to use computer analysis to find likely coronavirus carriers

Israel has recorded 4,347 cases of the virus, and 15 deaths.
Israel has recorded 4,347 cases of the virus, and 15 deaths. (AP)

Israel already tests around 5,000 people a day for the new virus, which can cause respiratory failure but also be present for several days without causing symptoms, and imposes strict quarantine on those found to have it.

Israel's defence ministry plans to use software that analyses data gathered from mobile phones - produced, according to Israeli media, by the spyware firm NSO - to help locate likely carriers of the coronavirus in order to test them.

Defence Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters that the "coronameter" would need approval from the cabinet - likely to be given - as well as an assessment of privacy issues from the attorney general, who has the power to block it. But it could be operational within 48 hours of getting the go-ahead.

Israel already tests around 5,000 people a day for the new virus, which can cause respiratory failure but also be present for several days without causing symptoms, and imposes strict quarantine on those found to have it.

It hopes soon to double the number of tests. To help it decide who to test, it is using military-level surveillance to tracks civilians' movements - prompting complaints about invasion of privacy from rights groups.

So far, Israel has recorded 4,347 cases of the virus, and 15 deaths. As of Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was self-isolating after a parliamentary aide tested positive for the virus.

Bennett said the cellphone tracking and geo-location data currently being used were no longer effective in finding the most likely carriers.

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