Israel is part of a new initiative led by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of relatively small countries that feel they have succeeded in beating Covid-19, for the time being. The countries would open their borders between each other, in order to boost their tourist industry and help revive their economies.
The first meeting of the ‘immune countries alliance’ took place last week online with the participation of Denmark, Greece, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, Austria and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a conference call with the leaders of these countries.
During the the conference call, hosted by the Austrian Chancellor, the leaders noted from their countries’ experience that opening schools under social-distancing restrictions had not led to a significant renewal of outbreaks, except for localized ones that have been dealt with on an individual basis.
The leaders also discussed readiness for a possible second wave of COVID-19.
They agreed that the most effective way to prevent spread of the virus was to use digital tools and a system that combines receiving test results in less than 24 hours and epidemiological investigations of infected people that are concluded in less than 48 hours, with the assistance of digital tools.
“In Israel, as in all your countries, we have been very successful up to now,” said Netanyahu. “But I always say that we are on the 84th floor on the way down. We may be going down in an elevator, and we may be just dropping very quickly. We don’t know. But it’s been successful up to now. Our economies are being practically opened up completely with the exception of international flights.”
“I think that we’ll inevitably be forced into much more rigorous contact tracing on the one side, and information or disease testing before and after flights that don’t require people to sit in quarantine for 14 days once they get off the plane,” said the Israeli prime minister. “That’s the only way that I think we have a chance on resuming the kind of aviation regime which we had before. That’s about where we are today.”
Other leaders at the conference included Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ahern.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Other European countries oppose this initiative including Germany, which has also been relatively successful in containing Covid-19. Germany refused an invitation to join the alliance because it is disruptive for the EU and has also said that it is too early to talk about opening its border with Austria.
The Danish Prime Minister said the EU was a “very important framework, but I think this global alliance is very appealing because it brings together countries from all over the world.”