Czech, Hungarian PMs head to Israel to get COVID-19 know-how

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The Czech and Hungarian prime ministers will visit Israel this week to gain know-how on COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccine production, the Czech government said on Tuesday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban are due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

“Israel is a leader in technologies. It is our traditional partner. I think it will be a very useful visit,” Babis said in a statement, adding he would visit a large vaccination center in Jerusalem.

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Israel has given the two recommended doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to roughly 40 percent of its nine-million strong population, while both the Czech Republic and Hungary have been struggling with their vaccine roll-outs.

The Hungarian news agency MTI quoted Orban’s spokesman Bertalan Havasi as saying he expected to “form a closer cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus” during the trilateral meeting.

The Czech Republic tops the world’s statistics for COVID-19 infections per capita over the past two weeks and is second in new deaths, according to an AFP tally based on official data.

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Hungary is eighth and fourth in the rankings, respectively.

Last week, Israel agreed a research and development fund with Austria and Denmark to develop and produce future generation coronavirus vaccines.

Babis has said he would discuss his country’s participation in the fund during the visit.

In his quest to boost vaccinations in his country and bypass bottlenecks in European Union supplies, Babis has recently visited Hungary and Serbia, which are using the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinopharm jabs.

Czech President Milos Zeman has meanwhile asked Russian and Chinese leaders for supplies of the two vaccines and announced they had both said yes.

However, a recent poll has shown Czechs are reluctant to take these vaccines, which have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

During the visit, Babis will also open a Czech diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

Just like most other countries, the Czech Republic has its embassy in Tel Aviv, pending a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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