The Spread of Covid-19 in Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (Updated to January 18, 2021)

Reception in Burqa (northwest of Nablus) for Fatah terrorist operative released from prison, in violation of the PA government ban on gatherings; no masks, no social distancing (Burqa Facebook page, January 11, 2021).

Reception in Burqa (northwest of Nablus) for Fatah terrorist operative released from prison, in violation of the PA government ban on gatherings; no masks, no social distancing (Burqa Facebook page, January 11, 2021).

Reception in Burqa (northwest of Nablus) for Fatah terrorist operative released from prison, in violation of the PA government ban on gatherings; no masks, no social distancing (Burqa Facebook page, January 11, 2021).

Reception in Burqa (northwest of Nablus) for Fatah terrorist operative released from prison, in violation of the PA government ban on gatherings; no masks, no social distancing (Burqa Facebook page, January 11, 2021).

Muhammad Shtayyeh cuts the ribbon opening the hospital in Nablus (Muhammad Shtayyeh's Facebook page, man 16, 2021).

Muhammad Shtayyeh cuts the ribbon opening the hospital in Nablus (Muhammad Shtayyeh's Facebook page, man 16, 2021).

Wedding in a village in the Jenin district (Facebook page of the al-Badad Studio in the Jenin district, January 15, 2021).

Wedding in a village in the Jenin district (Facebook page of the al-Badad Studio in the Jenin district, January 15, 2021).

A reconciliation ceremony in a village in the Jenin district, attended by Jenin district governor Akram al-Rajoub (Facebook page of the Jenin district governor, January 10, 2021).

A reconciliation ceremony in a village in the Jenin district, attended by Jenin district governor Akram al-Rajoub (Facebook page of the Jenin district governor, January 10, 2021).

Signing the marriage contract in Qalqilya (Facebook page of Studio MarMar, January 11, 2021).

Signing the marriage contract in Qalqilya (Facebook page of Studio MarMar, January 11, 2021).

A wedding in Qalqilya (Facebook page of awtar.recording, January 10, 2021).

A wedding in Qalqilya (Facebook page of awtar.recording, January 10, 2021).

Visiting al-Ram (Facebook page of the PA's Jerusalem district dedicated to the coronavirus, January 12, 2021; website of the PA's Civil Defense).

Visiting al-Ram (Facebook page of the PA's Jerusalem district dedicated to the coronavirus, January 12, 2021; website of the PA's Civil Defense).

Visiting al-Ram (Facebook page of the PA's Jerusalem district dedicated to the coronavirus, January 12, 2021; website of the PA's Civil Defense).

Visiting al-Ram (Facebook page of the PA's Jerusalem district dedicated to the coronavirus, January 12, 2021; website of the PA's Civil Defense).

Overview
  • The situation in the Gaza Strip:
    • The number of new and active Covid-19 cases in Gaza continues declining. Between December January 12 and 18, 2021, 2,354 new cases were detected. The number of active cases currently stands at 6,258, down from 7,907 a week ago. There have been 487 deaths, up from 447 a week ago.
    • Spokesmen for the health system in the Gaza Strip have expressed satisfaction with the decline in the number of patients, calling it primarily the result of the preventive measures. However, they also note that the situation is still dangerous, warning that easing restrictions will cause the numbers to rise. Despite to decline in infection the Hamas administration announced the weekend lockdowns and nightly curfews would continue. In addition, the overall situation of health system has reportedly improved (increase in the number of free beds, sufficient supply of coronavirus test kits and the arrival of oxygen stations).
    • Initial small quantities of vaccine are expected to being arriving in February 2021, to be followed by regular deliveries. Refrigerators to store the vaccines have already arrived. Front line medical workers will be vaccinated first, then the aged and chronically ill. The plan is to vaccinate between 60% and 70% of the total population.
  • The situation in Judea and Samaria:
    • This past week the rate of infection continued to decline in Judea and Samaria. There are 4,501 active cases, down from 6,496 a week ago. Of the daily tests administered, about 13.3% were positive, down from 15% a week ago. The Nablus district remains the district with the highest number of cases in Judea and Samaria, followed by the Ramallah-al-Bireh district.
    • The number of active cases continues to decline in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods as well. According to the Palestinian Authority (PA), in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods the number of active cases is 1,023 down from 1,319 a week ago. According to the Jerusalem municipality, there are currently 899 active cases, down from 1,094 a week ago. The rate of positive test results in most of the neighborhoods is about 11.7%.
    • PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh expressed satisfaction at public compliance with the government’s instructions, which had significantly curbed the spread of infection. However, in several districts preventive measures are not being followed, especially with regard to gatherings and opening businesses. The police enforce the government guidelines, not always successfully.
    • With the spread of Covid-19 in Israeli jails, and in view of Israel’s refusal to vaccinate prisoners, the PA minister of health met with an International Red Cross delegation and asked for the organization to exert pressure on Israel to vaccinate Palestinian prisoners (Note: According to the Israeli media, on January 17, 2021, after 83% of the prison guards had been vaccinated the Israeli Prison Service began vaccinating prisoners).
The Gaza Strip

Extent of the Covid-19 infection

This past week the spread of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip continued to subside. Between January 12 and 18, 2021, 2,354 new cases were detected (down from 2,936 a week ago). On January 18, 2021, there were 6,258 active cases in the Gaza Strip, down from 7,907 on January 11. 2021. There have been 487 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 447 a week ago. Of the 161 hospitalized patients in ICUs, 82 are in serious or critical condition (down from 213 and 117 a week ago)

Rate of Covid-19 infection in the Gaza Strip during the past week

Rate of Covid-19 infection in the Gaza Strip during the past week

The change in active cases in the Gaza Strip over the past month

The change in active cases in the Gaza Strip over the past month

The extent of the infection
  • Dr. Iyad Abu Kirsh, head of the department of emergency medicine in the ministry of health, reported that between August 25, 2020 and the end of December 2020 536 patients were treated in ICUs in the various hospitals, and that 24% of all coronavirus patients died. The largest number of coronavirus-related fatalities were among the chronically ill, followed by cardiac patients and the morbidly obese (al-Ra’i news agency, January 13, 2021).
  • Dr. Fathi Abu Warda, PA advisor to the minister of health in the Gaza Strip, said the rise in popular awareness combined with the ministry of health’s preventive measures had flattened the curve of infection to 15% (Sama, January 16, 2021). Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, said the recovery rate had reached 85%, mortality was 1% and active cases were 13%. He said the numbers indicated a flattening of the epidemiological curve, but the situation was not yet fully under control (al-Quds, January 16, 2021).
  • Dr. Rami Abadla, head of the department monitoring infectious diseases in the ministry of health in Gaza, said they had recently begun taking random blood samples in various regions of the Gaza Strip to assess the epidemiological situation. He said the tests would help reveal how many asymptomatic people had developed coronavirus antibodies. He added that the tests administered in Beit Hanoun, and in other locations in the northern Gaza Strip indicated that between 20% and 40% of the population had been infected. He said the results of the tests in Beit Hanoun did not reflect the situation in the other regions because each was unique. Rate of infection and time lapse of its spread were different, and related to the nature of the population and its social connections (al-Ra’i news agency, January 13, 2021, Palestine Online, January 17, 2021).
  • Spokesmen for the health system are satisfied with the ongoing decline in the number of active cases, which they say is the result of the preventive measures implemented. However, they say the situation in the Gaza Strip remains dangerous and warn the numbers will rise with the recent easing of restrictions:
    • Dr. Yusuf al-Akkad, director of the European Hospital, said that during the past month, and especially during the last few days, the epidemiological situation stabilized, but they expect an increase in the number of cases with the opening of the mosques and schools, and the general easing of restrictions (Sabaq24, January 13, 2021; al-Quds al-Yawm website, January 13, 2021).
    • Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, said the number of active cases began to decline at the beginning of January, especially ICU cases. He said it indicated the success of the preventive measures, including the weekend general lockdowns. However, he said the situation in Gaza remained dangerous and sensitive because of the winter and decrease in barometric pressure, during which viruses become active. He said opening the mosques and schools required everyone to be more strict in employing preventive measures (al-Quds, January 16, 2021).
    • Dr. Majdi Dheir, head of the department of preventive medicine in the ministry of health in Gaza, said the epidemiological situation had improved considerably with the decline in the number of patients, in the positive test rate and in the demand for ICU beds. He said the preventive measures taken recently by the ministry of health and relevant government committees were responsible (al-Ra’i news agency, January 17, 2021). On another occasion he said they were not yet out of danger and that easing the preventive measures would cause the epidemiological curve to rise (Shehab, January 11, 2021).
The Gaza Strip’s health system
  • The following parameters indicate an improvement in the overall situation of the health system in the Gaza Strip:
    • Additional beds, including ICU beds: The W.H.O.’s periodic report (as of January 14, 2021) noted that 34% of the beds in hospitals allotted for coronavirus patients were occupied (183 of 540) and 26% of the ICU beds (23 of 90) (W.H.O. website, January 14, 2021).
    • Testing: The W.H.O. reported that the number of test kits was sufficient to last through January 24, 2021 (W.H.O. website, January 14, 2021). Dr. Amid Mushtaha, head of the department of laboratories in the ministry of health in Gaza, said 20 specialists were working around the clock in the central laboratory to process the tests and that the situation regarding testing materials and PPE was better than it had been in the past. He said the number of tests processed per day had increased, and it was now possible to process between 2,500 and 3,000 tests per day (Dunia al-Watan, January 11, 2021).
    • Oxygen supplies: The ministry of health generated 6,000 liters of oxygen which was supplied to coronavirus patients. In addition, appliances and equipment for generating oxygen had arrived from donors. According to the ministry of health, they now have sufficient quantities of oxygen (al-Quds, January 16, 2021). Dr. Rami Abadla, head of the department monitoring infectious diseases in the ministry of health in Gaza, also said the situation was stable and there was enough oxygen. He said there were five oxygen stations in the European Hospital, a station for refilling canisters and a station for liquid oxygen. They could not supply all the patients’ needs, and therefore wards had been opened in other hospitals for Covid-19 patients (Palestine Online, January 17, 2021).
Vaccine acquisition
  • Salameh Maarouf, head of the government information office, said they had received official confirmation from the W.H.O. that vaccines would begin arriving in the Gaza Strip in at the beginning of February 2021. He said that based on the relative number of inhabitants in the Gaza Strip, Gaza was supposed to receive 40% of the vaccines sent to the PA (Dunia al-Watan, January 14, 2021).
  • Dr. Majdi Dheir, head of the department of preventive medicine in the ministry of health in Gaza, said refrigerators for storing the vaccines from Pfizer had already arrived in Gaza, and that small quantities of the vaccine would arrive during February 2021. The first people to receive the vaccine would be medical teams. Afterwards, regular supplies of the vaccine would arrive. Between 60% and 70% of the Gaza Strip population will be vaccinated in the following order: first front line medical workers, then the aged, the chronically ill, security force operatives, and educational workers (al-Ra’i news agency, January 17, 2021), Sabaq24, January 14, 2021).
Continuation of preventive measures
  • The sixth consecutive general weekend lockdown in the Gaza Strip began on January 15, 2021. Brigadier General Faiq al-Mabhouh, head of the committee for combatting the Covid-19 crisis in the ministry of the interior in Gaza, said that based on data from the ministry of health, preventive measures would remain unchanged (ministry of the interior in Gaza, January 14, 2021). Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in Gaza, said the preventive measures and guidelines, including the weekend lockdowns, would remain in force for the time being (Sawa, January 14, 2021). Salameh Maarouf, head of the government information office, said they had not ruled out a general lockdown, should the data demand one (Dunia al-Watan, January 14, 2021).
  • The Arab media reported that despite general satisfaction with the results of the weekend lockdowns, Gazans, especially those who are paid by day or week, are embittered. They complain they are paid less because of the lockdowns and do not receive compensation (al-Araby al-Jadeed, January 16, 2021). Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s education committee called on Ziyad Thabet, deputy minister of education in the Gaza Strip, to renew frontal instruction in all schools (Palestinian Legislative Council website, January 17, 2021).
Disregard for the Ban on Gatherings
Crowded market in Deir al-Balah (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 14, 2021).   Wedding party in the narrow streets of the Deir
Right: Wedding party in the narrow streets of the Deir al-Balah refugee camp (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 15, 2021). Left: Crowded market in Deir al-Balah (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 14, 2021).
Mass-attended funeral in Deir al-Balah (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 15, 2021).   Funeral service held in the Jabalia refugee camp for an operative of Hamas' military wing (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, January 11, 2021).
Right: Funeral service held in the Jabalia refugee camp for an operative of Hamas’ military wing (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, January 11, 2021). Left: Mass-attended funeral in Deir al-Balah (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 15, 2021).
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip
  • Musa al-Samak, deputy chairman of the government monitoring committee in the Gaza Strip, said the government’s monthly deficit had been severely challenged by the coronavirus crisis. He said government income had declined by 30%, compared to the same period in past years, but its expenses had increased because of the epidemic. He added that the government received monthly loans from the banks in Gaza but could still only pay employees half their salaries (alresala.net, January 12, 2021).
Foreign aid for Gaza
  •  The W.H.O. delivered 30,000 swabs and 100,000 antigen tests for the rapid detection of Covid-19 to the Gaza Strip, a donation from the government of Kuwait (W.H.O. website, January 14, 2021).
Boxes of tests arrive in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. legation in the territories, January 14, 2021).
Boxes of tests arrive in the Gaza Strip
(Facebook page of the W.H.O. legation in the territories, January 14, 2021).
Judea and Samaria
Extent of Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria

This past week the decline in number of active cases in Judea and Samaria continued; 2,030 new cases were detected, down from 3,007 a week ago. The number of active cases stands at 4,591, down from 6,496 a week ago. There are 81 patients in ICUs, 22 on ventilators. During the past week 72 people died, down from 75 a week ago, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,239. In Judea and Samaria 2,282 tests were administered, with an average daily positive infection rate of 13.3%. The PA reported 568 new cases in east Jerusalem. There are 1,023 active cases in east Jerusalem, down from 1,319 a week ago. According to the Jerusalem municipality, the number of active cases is 889, down from 1,094 a week ago.

Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria (according to the PA)

Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria (according to the PA)

The spread of Covid-19 infection (according to the PA)

The spread of Covid-19 infection (according to the PA)

Preventive measures
  • On January 14, 2021, the PA government announced that in light of the decline in the rate of infection, and in coordination with recommendations from the emergency committee for combatting Covid-19, the preventive measures will remain in force through February 1, 2021, along with a series of new regulations (Wafa, January 14, 2021):
    • The ban continues on movement between the districts, including the Jerusalem district, with the exception of medical personnel and employees of the ministry of education.
    • Seventh to 11th grade students will return to frontal learning for two weeks; 12th grade students will continue studying as usual. The universities and other educational institutions will be closed to frontal learning and instead rely on distance learning.
    • Palestinians returning from Israel are banned from entering cities and districts, workers are banned from leaving and entering the Palestinian territories. Palestinians working in Israel will have to remain there.
    • All movement of civilians and all forms of transportation are banned between 19:00 and 06:00 every day.
    • Government institutions, public and private officers, cafés, restaurants and gyms will operate at no more than 30% capacity. Banks and courts will operate under emergency conditions with a skeleton work force.
    • Weddings are banned, as are other parties, gatherings and mourning tents.
  • At the opening of a Red Cross hospital for Covid-19 patients in Nablus, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said they were satisfied with the Palestinians’ compliance with the government’s guidelines, which had significantly curbed the spread of infection. He said that from the first day, deployment to combat Covid-19 had been high and that no Covid-19 ward in any hospital had more than 60% occupancy. He added that additional patients could be hospitalized (Wafa, January 16, 2021).
Vaccine acquisition
  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, signed agreements with four companies for the provision of vaccines for 70% of the PA population. The W.H.O. is expected to provide an additional 20% (Filastin al-Yawm, January 16, 2021). Muhammad Shtayyeh said the vaccines would arrive during the coming month (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 16, 2021). Mai al-Kayla met with representatives of the Red Cross, who said the organization would be prepared to provide the PA with logistic support for distributing the vaccines once they arrive in the PA (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 14, 2021).
Fatah and the PA say Israel is responsible for the prisoners’ welfare
  • According to Fatah, Israel is fully responsible for the lives of the Palestinian prisoners, especially in light of the spread of Covid-19 in Israeli jails and in view of Israel refusal to vaccinate them. The Palestinian National Council called for the imposition of sanctions on the alernate Israeli prime minister and Defense Minister Benny Ganz, for the Israeli authorities’ refusal to vaccinate Palestinian prisoners (Wafa, January 14, 2021). Mai al-Kayla met with an International Red Cross delegation and asked them to exert pressure on Israel to vaccinate the Palestinian prisoners and provide them with the medical means to ensure their welfare (Dunia al-Watan, January 14, 2021).
Medical aid
  • The ministry of health in Ramallah received medical aid from the French Médecins du monde (MdM), including €150 thousand worth of laboratory equipment. Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, stressed cooperation with the organization and thanked it for helping the Palestinian health system (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 17, 2021).
Equipment from Médecins du monde (MdM) for the Palestinian ministry of health (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 17, 2021).    Equipment from Médecins du monde (MdM) for the Palestinian ministry of health (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 17, 2021).
Equipment from Médecins du monde (MdM) for the Palestinian ministry of health (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 17, 2021).
Geographic distribution of COVID-19 epicenters
Overview

According to the PA ministry of health, the distribution of active cases by district, as of January 18, 2021, was Nablus, 996; Ramallah, 825; Tulkarm, 465; Hebron, 448; Jenin, 351; Bethlehem, 342; the villages around Jerusalem, 326; Qalqilya, 285; Salfit, 188; Tubas, 147; and Jericho, 128 (Facebook page ministry of health in Ramallah, January 18, 2021).

The distribution of active cases in the various districts

The distribution of active cases in the various districts

Nablus district

The Nablus district still has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Judea and Samaria although the number declined significantly. As of January 18 there were 996 active cases, down from 1,647 a week ago.

Number of active cases in the Nablus district

Number of active cases in the Nablus district 

  • On January 16, 2021, a ceremony was held in Nablus for the official opening of a Red Cross hospital for Covid-19 patients. Present were Muhammad Shtayyeh and other senior Palestinian figures (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 16, 2021). The hospital has 44 beds for coronavirus patients and 12 ICU beds (Wafa, January 16, 2021). It also has advanced, sophisticated equipment including ventilators and oxygen stations, and at any time it can turn its wards into ICUs (Palestinian TV, January 16, 2021).
Hebron district

In the Hebron district coronavirus infection continues declining. As of January 18, 2021, the number of verified active cases stood at 448, down from 646 a week ago. The Hebron district currently has the third highest number of cases in the PA territories.

Number of active cases in the Hebron district

Number of active cases in the Hebron district

Bethlehem district

In the Bethlehem district the number of active cases declined to 342, down from 412 a week ago.

Jenin district

The number of active cases in the Jenin district continues declining. As of January 18, 2021, there were 351 active cases, down from 522 a week ago.

  • Residents of the Jenin district can be seen not obeying guidelines or employing preventive measures. This past week the Palestinian police in the Jenin district handed out several hundred citations to people who violated the lockdown, including pedestrians and drivers. The police also detained several store owners (website of the PA police, January 2021).
The Qalqilya district

As of January 18, 2021, the number of active cases in the Qalqilya district was 285, down from 287 a week ago.

  •  The office of the Qalqilya district governor closed a number of governmental institutions and offices in the city after active cases of Covid-19 were detected (Facebook page of the Qalqilya district governor, January 12, 2021). Also closed was the municipality of the village of Falameh (about three miles northeast of Qalqilya) after 15 residents tested positive for Covid-19 (Facebook page of the Qalqilya district governor, January 12, 2021). The Palestinian police closed stores and handed out citations to several dozen residents (website of the PA police, January 13, 2021).
Signing the marriage contract in Qalqilya (Facebook page of Studio MarMar, January 11, 2021).    A wedding in Qalqilya (Facebook page of awtar.recording, January 10, 2021).
A wedding in Qalqilya (Facebook page of awtar.recording, January 10, 2021). Left: Signing the marriage contract in Qalqilya (Facebook page of Studio MarMar, January 11, 2021).
The Ramallah district

In the Ramallah district the number of active cases continues declining. The district has the second highest number of cases in Judea and Samaria. The number of active cases stands at 825, down from 1,209 a week ago.

The villages around Jerusalem

The number of active Covid-19 cases in the villages around Jerusalem stands at 326, down from 437 a week ago. Weddings and other mass events continue to be held, some of them, in ITIC assessment, by residents of east Jerusalem.

  •  The public health committee in the Jerusalem district visited the village of al-Ram to examine the degree of preventive measures employed by the owners of stores, private institutions, schools and residents in general (Facebook page of the PA’s Jerusalem district dedicated to the coronavirus, January 12, 2021).
The East Jerusalem Neighborhoods

According to the PA, 568 new active cases were detected, down from 800 a week ago. The number of active cases stands at 1,023, down from 1,319 a week ago. According to the Jerusalem municipality, on January 18 the number of active cases was 889, down from 1,094 a week ago. The rate of positive test results in most of the neighborhoods is around 11.7%. The neighborhoods of Beit Hanina (152 active cases) and the Old City (115 active cases) continue to have the highest rate of infection.

The number of active cases in east Jerusalem neighborhoods , according to the PA

The number of active cases in east Jerusalem neighborhoods , according to the PA

The extent of Covid-19 infection in east Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem municipality, January 18, 2021

The extent of Covid-19 infection in east Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem municipality, January 18, 2021