Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday held a virtual meeting with Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš about the new COVID-19 variant and how to manage its spread.
The meeting was initiated by the Austrian Chancellor, for the purpose of hearing Israel's perspective on how to manage the pandemic, in light of Israel's success in managing the Delta wave.
During the meeting, the leaders shared their perspective and the lessons they learned from managing the virus in their respective countries, and shared the challenges they face in running a country in the shadow of a global pandemic. They also agreed to maintain contact and use their joint knowledge to better protect the public health.
PM Bennett said, "Why is it so important to focus efforts on the third vaccine? First, the booster has a very quick effect. Within 5-6 days after the third dose, you see a fast change. This is both in protection from infection, and protection from serious illness. Second, people who did not get vaccinated by this stage, two years after the pandemic started - it's hard to convince them to get vaccinated. It's a lot easier to convince those who already got vaccinated twice to do it a third time."
"In addition, if there are people who don't get the third dose, we will see breakthrough infections of people who were vaccinated twice, and then they tell themselves that the vaccine doesn't work, and lose faith in it. But that's a mistake, because you need three doses for them to be effective. Therefore, my main point is to get the third dose as soon as possible. People who were vaccinated twice, they are protected well, not perfectly, from serious illness, but they can still infect others."
Regarding the GPS tracking carried out by the Israel Security Agency (Shabak), Bennett said: "We are trying to prevent, as much as possible, the entry of Omicron into Israel. Therefore, immediately, when we are not yet certain about this variant and when our numbers are still very low, we have completely closed our borders to foreigners, at this stage. I assume that if this variant enters Israel in large numbers, it already won't matter."
"We use cellular tracking from our security agency, the Shabak, since this is very early and there is a lot of uncertainty. So we will use these drastic steps, but our wisdom as leaders is that the moment we know more, when more information comes in, we can gradually calm things down."
"This is a very important conversation," he concluded. "There are many things that we can learn from each other. Sharing information and insights between leaders is very effective. The coronavirus, and especially the new strain, present a threat to each of our countries and to the entire world. When we work together on an issue, we become much more effective. Together, we can protect our countries, our people and our economies."