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Address by the Ambassador of Italy, Gianluigi Benedetti on the occasion of the meeting with Sheba COVID-19 Delegation to Piemonte

Prof. Kreiss, Director General of Sheba Hospital,

Prof. Afek, Deputy Director General,

Prof. Elchanan Bar-On, Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response,

Dear friends,

Thank you for inviting me to this friendly and heart-warming event. I feel grateful and fortunate to be with you all again and this time I wish to tell you – as a group and to each one of you as an individual – GRAZIE DI CUORE.

It is a word that you have undoubtedly heard before, probably again and again, during your mission in Italy, but it is a word that will never be spoken enough for the extraordinary work you did in Piemonte.

I know that your mission was highly appreciated in Italy and really helped in the fight against the pandemic. But I hope that this experience has also allowed you to take something from Italy, something positive and pleasant that will remain with you in the future. That has always been the spirit of the mutual relationships between Italy and Israel: to give and to receive in a friendly win-win relation.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the coronavirus, and hit hard because of the large percentage of elderly people. However, Italy has shown resilience and a strong capacity to react. Thanks to extraordinary measures respected by the population, an excellent health system, dedicated doctors and nurses, we have reversed the course of the contagion. In these days, the spread of the virus is slowing down and the positive rate on the tests carried out is less than 5%.

The reduction in infections in the second wave – the wave you helped fighting – is confirmed by the classification of all Region as “yellow” or “orange”. Life is not back to normal, of course, but the economy is running and with some restrictions and maintaining masks and social distancing, people can eat outside, go to work, go shopping, and very soon also go skiing. Students are going back to school.

In this backdrop, an intense vaccination campaign has started, initially aimed at protecting health workers and the elderly who live in retirement homes and now, extended to the over 80-year-old population, which is particularly large in Italy. Vaccine availability has slowed down our vaccination plan of about a month, but things are now getting better and the Government is committed to speed up the vaccination campaign.

I would like to conclude by recalling the words spoken by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, when he lit the first Chanukka candle to greet you on arrival at the Verduno hospital: “There are common values between Israel and Italy!”. I would like to thank the delegation of doctors and the Sheba Hospital management for showing to the world this values with a concrete act of altruism towards Italians in difficulty due to the rage of the virus.

I am certain that what happened last December can soon be transformed into a solid relationship of collaboration between Sheba and Verduno and between Israeli and Italian health institutions.