Israel’s Health Ministry on Monday reported that the COVID-19 virus’s reproduction rate had risen back to one. The increasing transmission rate calls into question government plans to gradually reopen the economy following the country’s third lockdown.

The reproduction or “R” rate is a measure of a virus’s ability to spread, indicating how many other individuals each carrier is likely to infect. The ministry has stated that maintaining the R rate at 1 or below is one of the criteria for relaxing lockdown restrictions, along with the number of people who have been fully vaccinated and the number of patients in serious condition.

As of Monday, 4,723,966 Israelis have received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and 3,368,759 have been fully immunized, according to ministry data.

Also on Monday, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the Shin Bet security agency’s controversial phone tracing program, designed to detect contact between coronavirus carriers and those around them, can only be used for those who do not cooperate with the ministry’s epidemiological investigations.

The court debated the issue following petitions by four rights groups, which argued that the phone tracing was no longer necessary.  The court ruled that starting March 14, the Shin Bet will use phone tracing as a “complementary tool only,” for individual cases, as necessary.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch slammed the ruling as a “crime against the Israel public’s health,” noting that the tracking program “saved the lives of over 500,000 people.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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