How Israel Fought COVID
Since January 2021, when it began its mass vaccination campaign, Israel has vaccinated the majority of its adults, a commendable achievement. As a result, the country, which has a population of nearly one crore people, has been able to relax movement restrictions and eliminate the need for outdoor masks.
But, the questions remained – how Israel achieved this milestone ? To explore this I interviewed Scott Markovits. Scott currently lives in Israel in a city near Jerusalem and is originally from New York. He has helped in building foundation of one of the biggest all remote startup unicorn and he’s currently launching a startup for distributed teams and has also mentored 800 startups so far.
Here’s the recording of our talk :
- Communities played a crucial role in relieving the stress caused by COVID. People were helping COVID patients with food, medicines and general help such as bringing kids from schools or babysitting.
- COVID patients, those who were recovering from their homes, would just put out message in WhatsApp groups and people, even strangers would come for help without any incentives.
- Helping others has been the way of living of Israelis and they are amongst top charity donor.
- “It ain’t over, till it’s over for all” – Israel lived up to the statement and supported everyone with open-arms, even other nations.
- People and the government understood early that vaccination is the only way out, thus when the vaccination camps were set – it received massive response from public.
- Government understood that people being in proximity is a problem and lockdowns cannot be imposed for extended periods, hence they pushed for vaccination drive throughout the nation, with prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself following up with CEO of Pfizer to get vaccines in the nation.
- Driveways were set up, turning public establishments like football stadium into vaccination centre, where people can drive through, roll down their windows, get the jab and drive away. Simplicity in overall process was adopted in contrast to countries where long queues are observed for vaccination.
- Israel has central healthcare database established for it’s citizens, where health records of all the people are stored. It came handy in extending priority service to the needy.
- Rather than letting the vaccine go to waste, clinics were allowed to vaccinate even those individuals who didn’t belong to vulnerable age group, in case of excess of vials at the end of the day.
- Government issued funds to keep businesses afloat, however people didn’t depend much on government and rather took situation into their hands.
- Most of the Israel’s economy is hi-tech, so they didn’t felt much blow in adapting to work from home.
- Many people did lost their jobs, however.
- Businesses understood that to remain operational they will need to find creative ways to tackle the problem. When the customers couldn’t reach them, they tried reaching to the customer with home-deliveries or arranging food drive in different cities. They even went online, by providing their customers to check the menu and pay online.
- Businesses adopted immature digital rather than waiting for a perfect one to be created. Initial emphasize was on the digital tools which can just get the jobs done.
- Business reached out or created communities with the help of social media and kept themselves in business. People often respond positively when they have a sense of belongingness.
- Israel has remained epitome of innovation from early years. Looking for creative methods to solve a problem is a part of Israeli ethos. This was also recorded by historians who were amazed to see Jews from Israel, pleading and praying to get back to Israel, while it was just plain, barren desert. People here understand their constraints and tries to figure out ways around it.
- For example, Israel accepted their constraint of scarcity of water and created production scale desalination plant and drip irrigation system to sustain.
- In tough times, “Lives are more important than revenue” and startups here do understands that. “Title Care” – an Israeli startup, outsourced their product which they found to be crucial to patient’s lives. And there are many others such startups which came for help
- Startups tried to tweak their products to see if they can help fight COVID. This saw a surge of innovation especially in domain of health-tech.
- Government gives grants to startups that are working on innovative technologies without asking for any equity whatsoever.
- Apart from government, local and private bodies also support startup ecosystem by organizing accelerator programs at their level.