Czechs Ask Israel for Vaccine Know-How as Protesters Rally

Prague, Jan 10 (AFP/APP): The Czech President said Sunday he had asked Israel for advice on coronavirus vaccinations as his EU country suffered one of the world’s fastest infection rates.

His appeal came as thousands spilled into central Prague to protest against an ongoing vaccination campaign and tight government anti-virus restrictions. Speaking to the Blesk tabloid, President Milos Zeman said he had recently asked his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin “for help with organising the vaccination campaign because Israel is absolutely perfect at that”.

Israel has already given a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to more than 1.5 million people, a pace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed is the world’s fastest. Netanyahu has also said all Israelis over the age of 16 could get the vaccine by March.

“I hope that Israeli experts will show up here, and that they will help us as the experienced people they are,” said Zeman, who has been fostering close ties with Israel for a long time.

The Czech Republic kicked off Covid-19 vaccinations right after Christmas when billionaire populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis got the jab as the first Czech. On Sunday, 3,000 protesters in Prague waved Czech flags and banners saying “We’re not sheep,” and “No to vaccination” at the rally where mandatory face masks were a rare sight and social distancing rules were largely ignored. The protesters argue that government restrictions have failed to stem infections but are still finishing off many businesses.

Restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and theatres and most schools have been closed on and off since March in the EU member of 10.7 million people, which stands at the top of global statistics of new cases per head. “The chaotic measures taken by this government don’t work and they never will,” Jiri Janecek, manager at the struggling small brewery Maly Janek southwest of Prague, told the crowd.

Czech health authorities have so far registered more than 830,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and over 13,000 deaths, with daily rates topping a record 17,000 cases on two occasions this week.

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