Israel, 18 science ministries to enhance cooperation in COVID-19 fight

Science Minister Izhar Shay and 18 of his counterparts worldwide signed a declaration on Tuesday to enhance global cooperation in face of the coronavirus pandemic.“This is our opportunity to get together and promote innovation,” he said at a special virtual summit titled “Global Efforts in Fighting the Coronavirus.” “We are about to share the unique takeaways here so that our governments could benefit as well.”Shay launched an international virtual site to share data about COVID-19 and help scientists from around the world work in union. “We will begin with scientists from your own countries and, hopefully, be able to include others from around the world.”He said that in Israel, which has six months experience dealing with COVID-19, his ministry funded 100 projects meant to offer medical insights into the virus.“We have approached the Israeli ecosystem of start-ups, and many of them offered innovations to the government and the public,” he said, calling it a “great example” of the government joining hands with the private sector.Shay also told the ministers that as the nation begins a “partial lockdown” next week, “we are working, even as we speak, on measures that will allow people to go to work” during it.Argentinean Science Minister Roberto Salvarezza said his ministry created a COVID-19 unit “in association with biotech and pharma companies,” enabling the country to create effective and cheap test-kits now employed in hospitals across Argentina.Belarus’s Committee of Science and Technology vice chairman, Sergey Sherbakov, painted a positive image of the COVID-19 situation in his country, claiming that 10% of available ventilators were used and that the situation is stable. He stressed the importance of techno-parks to produce oxygen tanks and masks.“Our hi-tech achievements are not very well known in the world,” he said.Bulgarian Deputy Education and Science Minister Karina Angelieva said her nation is considering cooperating with China and Belarus to promote fighting the virus.Colombian Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Mabel Gisela Torres lauded the recently activated trade-agreement with Israel and explained how Colombia is planning to start a project to filter air used in public transportation to ensure passengers safety during COVID-19.Croatian Science Minister Radovan Fuchs noted this is the first international conference on the topic and that, sadly, the pandemic forces “all of us to face the same problems.”“We hoped the pandemic would not last for such a long time,” he said, before adding he spoke with Education Minister Yoav Gallant to figure out how to keep schools open during these challenging times. He mentioned an Israeli-German-Croatian development of COVID-19 anti-bodies as an example of the good relations between both countries.Computational biologist Eran Segal spoke about two studies done by the Weizmann Institute of Science to see if it is possible to predict in what parts of the country outbreaks will occur. By creating a minute-long survey that people can answer on their phones, his team was able to see where such outbreaks are taking place on a city – and even a street – level.“Loss of taste and smell meant there was a 35% bigger chance you would test positive for coronavirus,” he explained. “Using such means, which cost nearly nothing, we could get data to help the Health Ministry,” he said.Twenty-one countries are now using this Israeli-made model to offer similar solutions in their own countries. Another model he worked on is meant to predict how many people in hospital will become severely ill.German Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel said the pandemic “is too big for each country to deal with by itself” and is ergo a chance to promote international cooperation.“The next pandemic is going to come,” he warned, “and we might as well be prepared.”

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