06:59 GMT25 June 2021
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    Israel’s mass vaccination drive, which has already administered both shots to over half the population, along with lockdown measures, succeeded in bringing down the number of new daily COVID-19 cases from 8,600 at the peak of the crisis to just 19 on 6 June, with authorities gradually lifting restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could barely contain his enthusiasm on Sunday as he drew the unlikely comparison between the arrival of the first batch of coronavirus vaccines in Israel and the Japanese bombing of the US naval base Pearl Harbor, reported The Times of Israel.

    2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded in the surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon then-neutral country the United States on 7 December 1941, with America formally entering World War II the next day.

    “When the planes landed with the massive containers of vaccines, that was one of the most exciting moments in all my years as prime minister, because I felt that this was more or less like when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, you knew it was already the beginning of the end,” enthused Netanyahu.

    The 71-year-old Netanyahu - Israel's longest-serving prime minister – made the comments at a ceremony honouring institutions and workers who helped deal with the coronavirus health crisis.

    FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, part of the hull of the capsized USS Oklahoma is seen at right as the battleship USS West Virginia, center, begins to sink after suffering heavy damage, while the USS Maryland, left, is still afloat in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii
    © AP Photo
    FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, part of the hull of the capsized USS Oklahoma is seen at right as the battleship USS West Virginia, center, begins to sink after suffering heavy damage, while the USS Maryland, left, is still afloat in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

    This is not the first time Netanyahu, who has served a total of 15 years during two stints in office, has made mention of the Pearl Harbor attack in a positive light.

    In 2002, Netanyahu told a US congressional hearing on Iraq that Pearl Harbor “was a pivotal event that opened the eyes of Americans, and once their eyes were opened they gathered the power that is available in this great free nation, and the result was preordained”.

    “I think in a similar way, the bombing of September 11th opened the eyes of Americans to see the great conflict and the great dirge that face us; and once opened, and the overpowering will of the majority of the people of the United States, of the steamroller that is inexorably moving to decide this battle,” Netanyahu stated at the time.

    Israeli Prime Minister on ‘Lab leak’ Theory

    Elsewhere in his remarks on Sunday, Netanyahu said he had broached the creation of joint ventures with the US, including to develop vaccines, to deal with the challenge of possible future pandemics.

    Israel has been reporting only a handful of new coronavirus cases daily and nearly all restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the pandemic have been lifted. The vaccination campaign has seen over 5.4 million people get at least one dose, out of a population of 9.2 million.

    Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel December 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Pool
    AMIR COHEN
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel December 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Pool

    The nation has begun vaccinating teenagers aged 12 to 15 against COVID-19 following the publication of a study that demonstrates the risk of a possible link between the jab and heart inflammation in young males, a condition known as myocarditis, was minor compared with those of the respiratory disease.

    The Israeli PM also weighed into the debate surrounding the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the novel severe acute respiratory.

    “We live in an age of viruses, in the case that the coronavirus was created naturally, and it’s still not totally clear — I hope it wasn’t natural, but it seems it’s impossible to know — and that raises the chances of outbreaks of more pandemics,” said Netanyahu, according to a transcript provided by his office.

    A host of media reports of late have revived speculations regarding the “lab leak” theory, which suggests that COVID-19 was an engineered pathogen.

    The idea the COVID-19 virus escaped from a Wuhan lab in China is now the subject of an official review, after US President Joe Biden ordered the intelligence community to redouble efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus and to report their findings to him within 90 days, "including on whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident".

    Workers are seen next to a cage with mice (R) inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province, on February 23, 2017
    © AFP 2021 / JOHANNES EISELE
    Workers are seen next to a cage with mice (R) inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province, on February 23, 2017

    In March this year, the World Health Organisation released the full version of its report on the origins of the coronavirus, in which the WHO called a leak of COVID-19 from a laboratory very unlikely, suggesting that the virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats via another animal.

    China has been vehemently dismissing allegations the virus could have escaped a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology as “smear campaigns and blame shifting”.

    Related:

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    Pfizer, Pfizer, Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor, vaccine, Vaccine, vaccines, COVID-19, coronavirus, Israel, Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
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