Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has credited Benjamin Netanyahu with “waking him up” to the scale of the coronavirus crisis.
“Thank God I can say in this case that Bibi Netanyahu contacted me some time ago and said, ‘Hey, you guys in Europe are underestimating this’,” Mr Kurz told the German newspaper Bild.
Mr Netanyahu implored the chancellor to “wake up and do something”.
“That was the call that shook me awake”, said Mr Kurz, who was the first European leader to congratulate the Israeli prime minister on “his clear election victory” via Twitter on March 3.
Sincere congratulations to Prime Minister @netanyahu on his clear election victory! I am looking forward to continuing to work together with you in order to further strengthen our excellent bilateral relations and fight anti-Semitism & anti-Zionism. #Israel #Austria— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) March 3, 2020
Israel was certainly ahead of Austria when it came to instituting measures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
On March 4, when there were only 27 recorded cases in Austria, Israel mandated 14 days quarantine for all new arrivals from Austria.
Two days later, Austrian Airlines ended all flights to and from Israel.
On March 9, Mr Netanayhu held a video conference call with leaders from several European countries including Mr Kurz, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Mr Netanyahu urged European leaders to institute widespread testing, protect supply chains, and cooperate closely to exchange best practices.
The call came as the number of coronavirus cases in Italy on Austria’s southern border was increasing at a rate of 25 per cent every day.
The following day, Mr Kurz instituted 14 days quarantine for Austrians returning from Italy and closed Austria’s universities.
As of Monday morning, there were 3,611 recorded coronavirus cases in Austria. 16 Austrians have died from the virus.
No deaths have been recorded in Austria’s Jewish community. The country’s synagogues, Jewish schools, and Jewish museum have been closed.
Prayer services continue online and Austria’s Union of Jewish Students is delivering essential goods to 1,000 elderly and vulnerable community members.