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Opinion

Israel’s global COVID diplomacy initiatives

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Ilan Fluss - The Philippine Star

Coping with the profound challenges that coronavirus poses is still one of the problems of most nations. Two years since the pandemic, Israel is proud to actively and efficiently respond to this public health crisis. With its rapid vaccine rollout last year, Israel was widely praised for delivering the world’s fastest vaccination campaign in the first half of 2021 – and as the first country to give a booster shot to the general public.

Israel’s quick and flexible abilities to deal with emergencies brought it to the spotlight as a go-to expert on how to manage the pandemic. It is therefore natural for Israel to share its experience with its friends in the international community – there is a core Jewish value that teaches us that we must help the needy during difficult times, especially those in need of medical care.

Israel has been heavily involved in the international coronavirus diplomacy scene, collaborating and exchanging information, experiences and best practices with countries around the world in order to save lives and help its partners cope with the public health crisis. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been at the forefront of this effort, leading the push to donate masks, respirators and other essential medical equipment to countless countries. Mashav – the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s agency for international development cooperation – also has several aid and cooperation campaigns currently active around the world. Israel’s not-for-profit sector has similarly mobilized to assist the international community.

In the Philippines, Israel has provided assistance ever since the start of the pandemic through the embassy in Manila. Two Israeli health delegations shared Israel’s best practices with their Filipino counterparts to further improve the country’s vaccination roll-out, systems and clinical procedures in handling COVID patients and for efficient infection control protocols and hospital management.

The Israeli government also turned over several donations consisting of personal protective equipment and antigen test kits to the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police for use of their frontliners. Filipino caregivers in Israel were vaccinated for free. Education equipment were donated to the Department of Education and some schools to aid distance learning. We also assisted in the construction of handwashing facilities for some schools.

As a former member of the Israeli COVID-19 emergency task force, I believe that exchanging information is also key to managing the pandemic, and the information that Israel has shared on its vaccine campaign and booster shots has undoubtedly saved lives. Israel continues to share its experience, best practices and knowledge with the Philippines through webinars, courses and joint meetings.

The start-up nation’s innovative digital health care and telehealth systems have also served as an example for others to look up to. Israel has been widely credited with revolutionizing the way the world thinks about health, and has positioned itself at the forefront of the effort to create a data centric system of medicine. In fact, the Israeli national health care system’s already sophisticated level of digitization was one aspect that helped make the country’s ambitious vaccination drive so successful. The digital health care system of Israel can predict early and determine COVID patients who can be cared for at home or whether intensive treatment is required.

At the top of my agenda as the Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines is to promote the collaboration between innovators of both countries. I personally believe that Israel has so much to offer to efficiently and effectively respond not just to the current pandemic but to address global challenges such as climate change, food security, water, terrorism, among others.

COVID-19 brought the topic of telemedicine to the fore of the global tech discourse, and Israel made it a priority to be a leader in this field. HealthIL – a joint venture of the Israeli Ministry of Economy, Digital Israel Bureau and the Israel Innovation Institute – seeks to improve health care by supporting innovation in the field, bridging the gap between the tech community and the public health sector. By centralizing Israel’s global health care innovation ecosystem, HealthIL is bringing Israeli health tech to the world by collaborating across organizations, connecting demand and supply and streamlining innovation change management. Israel is eager to join hands with the international community in order to effectively address this current global challenge, as well as the ones to come.

The world will only succeed in collectively overcoming this pandemic if we work together and cooperate. Israel looks forward to continue sharing its insights and experiences with the world in all spheres of crisis management and public health. The embassy of Israel in the Philippines will continue to coordinate with the Philippine government to partner with the country in its fight against COVID-19.

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Ilan Fluss is the Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines.

ISRAEL

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