Israel has suggested 50 topics in health and science where it can cooperate with India to find solutions to the Covid-19 crisis even as it works to bring together private enterprises from both sides to develop technologies to manage and overcome the pandemic.
After successfully controlling coronavirus infections, Israel is sharing its experiences, best practices and strategy for exiting from a lockdown with the Indian side, Israeli ambassador Ron Malka told a small group of journalists via video conference on Wednesday.
“We have started a special form of cooperation for Covid-19 and we’ve nominated a point of contact in Israel, who is coordinating with Israeli experts. We have offered India 50 topics for cooperation in health and science regarding the coronavirus,” Malka said.
At the same time, Israel is working to put together start-ups and entrepreneurs from both sides to work on finding solutions to different aspects of the Covid-19 crisis. The focus, Malka said, is not just on equipment to prevent infections and defeat the virus but also on facilitating new ways of doing things amid the unprecedented lockdown.
“The focus is on top priority areas we want to promote to defeat the virus but also on new methods and equipment to manage the situation,” he said, referring to the development by Israel of solutions such as hand washing stations, ultra-violet light technology, 3D printing of face masks and anti-virus fabrics that block and kill viruses.
He also referred to the development of a low-cost ventilator, whose design and codes are open-source, by Israeli researchers from private companies and state-run companies such as Microsoft and Israeli Aerospace Industries, and the breakthrough by the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in isolating an antibody that neutalises SARS-CoV-2.
“I think this crisis brought Israel and India even closer together, given the fact that we are seen as a precious and close friend, given that there is mutual trust and respect between Israel and India, especially in areas of science and technology,” Malka said.
Malka also spoke of Israel’s use of technology for tracing those who tested positive and the people they were in contact with against the backdrop of a debate in India on privacy concerns related to the Aarogya Setu aap.
“This is a very careful line that we are now playing because we need to balance between…the need not to violate privacy [since] Israel is a democracy respecting the rights of everyone and universal freedom [and] on the other hand, we have this tech that can help us get control and help save people’s lives,” he said.
The technology is being used for a “limited extent and time” by the executive while the legislative branch works on laws and procedures under the supervision of the judiciary, he said. “The basic thing is trust and understanding. In other times, no one will even dare to offer this kind of tracing,” he added.
Israel is also keen to share data on Covid-19 with India as having more data to analyse will help uncover patterns and characteristics of the disease, he said.
Malka, a trained economist, said any exit strategy for a lockdown will be all “about balancing life and livelihood”. He said, “We understand health is very important but the economy is also important for the health of the people.”
Asked about the call from several countries for an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, Malka said: “The focus now is on trying to defeat the virus, taking the right measures to fully control the infection curve and develop a vaccine or a medicine as fast as we can while we find a balance between the needs for health and the economy.
“The investigation – where did it come from and why – this is something that we can leave for later. I don’t think Israel is involved with that and I know we have harnessed all our efforts, our experts and our technology just to defeat this virus.”
Israel, which was one of the first countries to go into a total lockdown, has so far recorded more than 16,000 Covid-19 cases and 238 deaths. More than 10,500 people have recovered and only 70 are still in intensive care, the envoy said.