Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday during an interview with the German newspaper Bild, saying it was the Israeli leader that had called his attention to the dangers of what would go on to become the global coronavirus pandemic.
There was great concern in Austria, said Kurz, because the nation shared a border with Italy and had witnessed the “collapse” of Italy’s health-care system.
The Austrian chancellor said he “thanked God” for a conversation he had with Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader warned him that he was not taking seriously enough the effect that coronavirus would have on Europe, and urged him to “wake up and do something.”
Kurz said that the conversation shook him, but also prompted him to make Austria one of the first European countries to take serious action to counter the spread of the virus.
More than 3,000 Austrians have contracted the virus so far, eight of whom have died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes.
The country is under a strict stay-at-home policy, with much of its economy shut down. Still, compared to its southern neighbor Italy, the situation appears under control and the health-care system is functioning well.