Danish, Austrian leaders join forces with Netanyahu against COVID-19, laud Israel’s vaccine success

The leaders of the three countries said their alliance will set up a foundation and vaccine distribution plants in Europe and Israel, based on Israel’s world-leading inoculation drive.

By Associated Press and World Israel News

Israel, Denmark and Austria agreed on Thursday to join forces in the fight against COVID-19 with an investment in research and roll-out of vaccines to protect people against new surges and mutations of the coronavirus.

The leaders of the three countries said their alliance will set up a foundation and vaccine distribution plants in Europe and Israel, based on Israel’s world-leading inoculation drive.

The effort is aimed at getting ahead of another expected surge of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of how long inoculations will remain effective. Details, such as costs and the time frame for opening the projects, were still being worked out, the leaders said.

Among the issues that were raised were the ability to produce vaccines, the research and development of vaccines and drugs, cooperation in the field of regulation, routine life under the coronavirus, exit strategy and the education system.

“This is a special day when two dynamic European leaders come together to Jerusalem to discuss together how we continue the battle against COVID, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

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“We think that by joining the resources of three small but very able and gifted countries, we can better meet these challenges,” he continued. “I think Israel serves as a model for the world, and we’re discussing some of our experiences, sharing those experiences with our friends, and indeed you are two wonderful friends for Israel.”

Pther countries have also expressed interest in the effort,” Netanyahu said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz added that “this pandemic can only be overcome through global cooperation.”

That has been a delicate question as virus-fighting campaigns faced challenges in places like Europe and raised concerns that the pandemic would last longer in poorer countries that cannot afford vaccination campaigns.

Israel has inoculated more than half of its population in one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns.

While Israel does not produce vaccines, the prime minister has moved aggressively to secure enough vaccines for Israel’s 9.3 million people in deals with Pfizer and Moderna. Netanyahu has even offered some surplus vaccines to allied nations.

The European leaders said they wanted to learn from Israel’s success. Austria is among a number of European Union members that have expressed frustration over the vaccine’s slow rollout among the 27-nation bloc. Kurz said he was happy with some of the EU’s handling of the crisis, “but we also need to cooperate worldwide.”

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Earlier in the day, Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen joined Netanyahu at a gym in Israel to observe how vaccine certifications, known as the “green passport,” work. Only people with the badge indicating they have been vaccinated, obtained through an app, can use gyms and go to concerts.

“Vaccine production involves many steps, so we will divide the task between us, and each is to focus on specific ones,” said Kurz, who said his country will need about 30 million doses for the pandemic’s next expected stage.

Frederiksen said that she would also like to see the countries cooperate on clinical trials.

“We all have promising research that could pave the way for next generation platforms,” she said.

From startup nation to ‘vaccination nation’

For the first time in over two months, the number of serious cases in Israel dropped to below 700.

Israel is “the first country in the world to emerge from corona. With this green passport you can go to restaurants, you can go to theaters, you can go to sports events. This is it. We’re coming out,” Netanyahu said Thursday in an interview with Fox News.

“Look, I don’t think we’re coming out completely. We’re going to have to wear a mask for some time, but we’re behind it,” he added.

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“Israel used to be known, and is known, as the startup nation. From today it’ll also be known as the vaccination nation,” he said. “We’re setting the model for the world, we’re very proud of it.”

According to the latest figures cited by the Health Ministry, 4,143 Israelis were diagnosed Wednesday as positive for the coronavirus. The number of patients in critical condition Thursday morning stood at 699 – the lowest figure since the end of December. The death toll from the virus’ complications has reached 5,815, of which 15 patients died Wednesday.