Disinfecting the village of Taffuh (Facebook page of the Taffuh municipality, June 26, 2020).
Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of the Hebron district, interviewed by Palestinian TV (Jibrin al-Bakri's Facebook page, June 25, 2020).
The Palestinian minister of health visits the government hospital in Dura which was turned into a medical center for treating COVID-19 patients (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, June 24, 2020).
The Palestinian minister of health visits the government hospital in Beit Jala (Facebook page of the governor of the Bethlehem district, June 27, 2020).
Muhammad Shtayyeh meets in his office with the heads of the Palestinian security forces (Muhammad Shtayyeh's Facebook page, June 27, 2020).
Delivery of test kits (website of the Latin Patriarchy in Jerusalem, June 23, 2020).
Delivery of test kits (website of the Latin Patriarchy in Jerusalem, June 23, 2020).
- The numbers of COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria continue to spike in what the Palestinian Authority (PA) considers a second coronavirus wave. The number of active cases currently stands at 1,620, most of them (about 82% of the total number) in the Hebron district. According to reports, 10 patients are on ventilators and two in the Hebron district have died. A woman in east Jerusalem has also died. The spike in the number of infections has continued to lead public discourse within the Palestinian population this past week.
- Most of the PA’s preventive measures are focused in the Hebron district, which is in full lockdown. Lockdowns were also imposed on other districts for a limited amount of time (such as the Bethlehem district, for 48 hours) or a complete local lockdown in specific villages where there was a spike in infections (in the Nablus district).
- The spikes in the numbers of active cases in Judea and Samaria are in stark contrast to the positive situation in the Gaza Strip, despite its potential for mass infection. So far, Hamas has successfully prevented the virus from spreading to the internal population. This past week there was no change in the number of active cases, and it remains 14. However, despite the relatively stable situation, medical experts in Gaza warn that the virus could spread inside the Gaza Strip by exploiting various loopholes, such as tunnels and smugglers.
- This past week the number of Palestinian workers entering and leaving Israel increased, both legally (through the crossings) and illegally (through holes in the fence). The movement of Palestinian workers is liable to accelerate the mutual infection of the disease both in Israel and in the PA, where the spike continues in both.
Sharp Rise in Infection in Judea and Samaria Continues
- The coronavirus outbreak in Judea and Samaria can be described as follows:
- The numbers keep spiking (compared with the low number of cases in Gaza).
- At the end of last week ten patients on ventilators in ICUs were reported (compared with one last week).
- Reportedly, higher numbers of the elderly, who are vulnerable to complications, have been infected.
- Most of the active cases (about 82%) are in the Hebron district. In addition, there has been a significant rise in cases in the Bethlehem district. The virus has spread to other districts, including those declared “coronavirus-free” in recent weeks.
- The number of active cases in east Jerusalem has also spiked (with 82 cases this week compared with 38 last week).
- Two patients recently died in Hebron, and one in east Jerusalem. Since the outbreak of the disease eight Palestinians have died in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem.
Number of COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria
Distribution of verified cases in the various districts
Rate of the spread of COVID-19 in the Hebron district
The towns and villages in the Hebron district with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, June 27, 2020, as of 11:00).
- Given the spike in the number of cases, Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of the Hebron district, ordered it to be isolated from the rest of the PA. He has allowed the passage only of trucks and other commercial vehicles through the district. In addition, he banned parties, weddings, the erection of mourning tents and other gatherings, and ordered all businesses in the district to operate in accordance with the ministry of health’s guidelines, and enforced them more strictly. PA employees were instructed to reduce work to a minimum, coordinating with the ministries they worked for (Jibrin al-Bakri’s Facebook page, June 27, 2020).
- Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, paid a visit to Hebron where she said a number of programs had been formulated to keep the coronavirus from spreading further in the district. She said the ministry of health had given the district another machine for conducting tests which, she said, could carry out 1,000 tests and provide answers within four hours. In addition, four ambulances had been transferred to the Hebron district. During a visit to the town of Dura (south of Hebron) she opened the hospital, which had been turned into a center for treating COVID-19 patients (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, June 24, 2020).
- In the Bethlehem district 120 active COVID-19 cases have been detected (as of June 28, 2020). Kamal Hamid, governor of the Bethlehem district, ordered a 48-hour lockdown beginning June 29, 2020. All official and private institutions will be closed, all activity is banned except for medical activity, exiting and entering the district are banned, and all movement within the district is banned except for emergencies. Only medical teams, bakeries and pharmacies are permitted to operate (Wafa, June 27, 2020).
Right: Disinfecting the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem Left: The Palestinian minister of health visits the government hospital in Beit Jala (Facebook page of the governor of the Bethlehem district, June 27, 2020).
- In the Nablus district 96 active COVID-19 cases have been detected. Ibrahim Ramadan, governor of the district, imposed a lockdown on a after COVID-19 cases were found. He also announced the temporary lockdown of the national hospital to prepare it to treat COVID-19 patients (Dunia al-Watan, June 25, 2020). He said if the number of COVID-19 patients continues rising, he will impose a full lockdown (Sawa, June 27, 2020). He and the members of the emergency committee paid a visit to the district markets to see how committed residents and business owners were to precautionary and preventive measures (Ibrahim Ramadan’s Facebook page, June 27, 2020).
- In the Jenin district five COVID-19 cases have been detected. Ikram al-Rajoub, the governor of the district, imposed a 36-hour lockdown on the villages of Ya’bed and al-Yamoun to enable contact tracing. The security forces in Jenin closed six reception venues which did not take proper precautions, and there was even an active case present in one of them. The owners of the reception venue were detained (Ma’an, June 28, 2020).
- After an active COVID-19 case was detected, Rafi’ Rawajba, governor of the Qalqilya district, closed the reception venues and ordered a ban on gatherings, parties and the erection of mourning tents. Condolence calls can be paid only at cemeteries and shaking hands is forbidden. He also ordered the closing of all offices (Dunia al-Watan, June 28, 2020).
- According to PA reports, the number of active COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem stands at 82 (compared with 38 last week). The total number of cases since the outbreak of the virus currently stands at 258 (compared with 195 last week) (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, June 28, 2020). On June 27, 2020, the death from COVID-19 of a 19-year-old woman from east Jerusalem was reported.
Active COVID-19 cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods
Total number of COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem neighborhoods
PA Preventive Measures
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh met with the heads of the security forces and announced the preventive measures would be intensified. Infected areas will be isolated, the activities of the emergency committees in the cities, villages and refugee camps will be renewed, gatherings will be banned, including weddings, parties and the erection of mourning tents. Anyone who disobeys the orders will be punished (Muhammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page, June 27, 2020). Roadblocks were set up at the entrances to the cities, and extensive disinfection operations and information campaigns have been held (Wafa, June 27, 2020; Sawa, June 27, 2020; the Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, June 27, 2020).
Right: Public service message from the PA ministry of health: the coronavirus domino effect (Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, June 23 and 25, 2020). Left: Muhammad Shtayyeh meets in his office with the heads of the Palestinian security forces (Muhammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page, June 27, 2020).
- Muhammad al-Habash, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas for religious matters, ordered the closing of the Sharia religious courts in the Nablus and Bethlehem districts for 48 hours (beginning on June 28, 2020). He also decided not to open the Sharia courts in the Hebron district (Wafa, June 27, 2020).
Leaving the PA to work in Israel
- Despite the preventive measures taken by the PA, on June 28, 2020, Israeli Border Police fighters detained about 70 Palestinians between the ages of 20 and 50 in the Meitar Forest on the Palestinian border near Beersheba (southern Israel). According to suspicions, the Palestinians, who all came from the Hebron region, entered Israel without work permits. Palestinian social network users are showing considerable understanding for the motivation of Palestinian workers who enter Israel (as opposed to previously, when workers who returned from Israel were criticized, claiming that they spread the virus).
Return of Palestinians stranded abroad
- Despite the spike in the spread of the coronavirus, and given the implementation of preventive measures, the PA’s foreign ministry continues its operation to transport back to PA territory Palestinians stranded in other countries. The ministry announced additional dates for the arrival of Palestinians in coordination with Palestinian general intelligence and the Jordanian authorities. The arrival of Palestinians was announced from Egypt (three planes), Russia (one plane), India, Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Algeria (Sawa, June 25, 2020).
Foreign Support for the PA
- During the past week the PA received promises of more aid from a number of countries to help it fight the spread of the coronavirus:
- The German government donated ten million euros to UNRWA, and a similar amount to help Palestinians in the refugee camps who are isolated at home or in quarantine centers. UNRWA said it would use the money to send 2,500 shipments of food packages and medical equipment for families in quarantine centers (Wafa, June 25, 2020).
- The French consul general in Jerusalem announced France would donate a million euros to help small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 crisis. According to the PA minister of national economy, the funds will be transferred through a joint government committee (Wafa, June 25, 2020).
- The Japanese government donated more than $1.5 million to support UNRWA’s efforts to fight the coronavirus (Dunia al-Watan, June 24, 2020).
- Turkey signed an agreement promising to transfer $5 million to the Palestinians to help them fight the coronavirus outbreak. According to reports the money will be transferred in one lump sum. The agreement was signed in Ankara on June 11, 2020, in the presence of Fa’ed Mustafa, the PA representative in Turkey (al-Andalou News, June 26, 2020).
- Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, signed a memorandum with the Spanish foreign minister for a Spanish-Palestinian cooperation program for the years 2020-2024, worth €100 million. The money is earmarked for the business sector, especially for women and youth, water and agriculture, as well as Palestinian government educational, heath and social welfare institutions, support for civilian community institutions, and €5 million for UNRWA (Wafa, June 25, 2020).
The Gaza Strip
Extent of the infection
- In complete contrast to the spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Judea and Samaria, and despite the great potential for infection, so far Hamas has successfully prevented the uncontrolled spread of the virus inside the Gaza Strip. This past week there has been no change in the number of COVID-19 cases. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, reported the recovery of one patient, thus the number of active cases now stands at 14.
- So far 57 or the 72 cases reported in the Gaza Strip have recovered (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Twitter account, June 27 2020). There are still 291 Gazans in quarantine centers (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Twitter account, June 27, 2020). According to the daily report issued by the ministry of health in Gaza, 12,533 tests have been conducted, of which 12,461 were negative (Dunia al-Watan, June 27, 2020).
Preparations for a possible spike
- This past week a number of simulations and drills were held for local medical staffs to prepare them to deal with a mass outbreak of coronavirus. Dr. Rami al-Abadle, director of the department of infections disease control in the hospital department of the ministry of health in Gaza, said that more than half of the staff of the public health system had undergone training (website of the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, June 22, 2020).
Right: Simulation drill in Khan Yunis (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, June 25, 2020). Left: Medical staff during a simulation drill, apparently in Khan Yunis
(W.H.O. website, June 25, 2020).
- Dr. Yusuf Abu al-Rish, deputy minister of health in Gaza, expressed concern at the possible entrance of COVID-19 through various loopholes, such as the tunnels, smugglers and infiltrators into the Gaza Strip. He said plans had been devised to combat every possible scenario in coordination with all the sectors and institutions (arab48 website, June 24, 2020). He also said the plans were not yet fully ready, and that they still had a way to go, because of the [so-called Israeli] “siege” which had been harming the Gaza Strip for 14 years (arab48 website, June 24, 2020).
Shortage of drugs
- Sources in the Gaza Strip continue complaining about a shortage of drugs. Dr. Muneir al-Barash, head of the department of general pharmacology in the ministry of health in Gaza, called the shortage of drugs “very difficult and dangerous.” He said drugs were running out faster than usual and the shortage of important types of vital drugs had passed the 42% mark. He added that the drugs received from the warehouses of the ministry of health in Ramallah since the beginning of the year made up only 5% of Gaza’s annual needs (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, June 25, 2020).
Foreign aid for Gaza
- This past week medical aid continued arriving in the Gaza Strip:
- The Pope, via the Community of Eastern Churches (the body liaising between the Vatican and the eastern churches) donated 25 coronavirus testing kits to the ministry of health in Gaza. The delivery was coordinated by the Papal legate, the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem and Caritas Jerusalem (website of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, June 23, 2020).
- Three pallets of drugs and equipment vital for treating COVID-19 patients were delivered to the medical authorities in Gaza by the W.H.O. they were the gift of Britain and will be used in respiratory triage centers, which are separate from the normal ICUs in the five main hospitals in Gaza, to keep the disease from spreading further (Facebook page of the regional W.H.O. office, June 25, 2020).
- The W.H.O. sent five pallets of medical equipment and disinfectants paid for by the Kuwaiti government. The equipment included masks, gloves, protective suits, N95 masks and face shields (Facebook page of the regional W.H.O. office, June 25, 2020).