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Hungarian, Czech premiers to meet Israeli PM on pandemic strategy


BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The Hungarian and Czech prime ministers will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to discuss policies to fight COVID-19 as a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeps central Europe.

"The main topic of the meeting will be the effort to curb the pandemic," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's press chief said in a statement.

Netanyahu, who has said 90% of eligible Israelis have either received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or recovered from the virus, has made Israel's vaccination programme a showcase of his campaign for re-eection on March 23.

Last week Israel, Austria and Denmark said they would set up a joint research and development fund, and possibly production facilities for COVID-19 vaccines, to ensure they had long-term supplies for booster shots or to contend with virus mutations.

Hungary imposed tough new lockdown measures on Monday to curb a rise in COVID-19 infections and has accelerated its vaccination campaign.

Orban's government has closed all schools and most shops in his country of 10 million.

The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, has been hit hard by the pandemic in recent weeks, with the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition at new highs and some hospitals nearing capacity. Prague has asked Germany, Poland and Switzerland to take in some patients.

   The Czech government has sought to turn the tide with a strict lockdown restricting travel around the country and has boosted testing at industrial companies that have been untouched by restrictions.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than, additional reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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