The Spread of COVID-19 in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Updated to July 27, 2020)

Inspection teams in the Hebron district visit a local business (Facebook page of the Hebron district governor, July 22, 2020).

Inspection teams in the Hebron district visit a local business (Facebook page of the Hebron district governor, July 22, 2020).

PA security services disinfect the village of Balata (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).

PA security services disinfect the village of Balata (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).

PA security services disinfect the village of Balata (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).

PA security services disinfect the village of Balata (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).

The PA police disinfect the Deir Omar refugee camp (PA police website, July 20, 2020).

The PA police disinfect the Deir Omar refugee camp (PA police website, July 20, 2020).

Full lockdown of the Jericho district, ordered by the district governor (Wafa, July 22, 2020).

Full lockdown of the Jericho district, ordered by the district governor (Wafa, July 22, 2020).

Disinfecting Bayt Surik (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 24, 2020).

Disinfecting Bayt Surik (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 24, 2020).

Disinfecting Bayt Surik (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 24, 2020).

Disinfecting Bayt Surik (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 24, 2020).

Disinfecting a kindergarten (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 23, 2020).

Disinfecting a kindergarten (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 23, 2020).

Monitoring the situation in al-Ram (Facebook page of COVID-19 information in the PA's Jerusalem district, July 22, 2020).

Monitoring the situation in al-Ram (Facebook page of COVID-19 information in the PA's Jerusalem district, July 22, 2020).

Examining the situation in al-E'izariya (Facebook page of COVID-19 information in the PA's Jerusalem district, July 21, 2020).

Examining the situation in al-E'izariya (Facebook page of COVID-19 information in the PA's Jerusalem district, July 21, 2020).

Delivering test kits to the PA ministry of health (Facebook page of journalist Samer al-Sharawi, July 26, 2020).

Delivering test kits to the PA ministry of health (Facebook page of journalist Samer al-Sharawi, July 26, 2020).

Overview

According to a report from the Palestinian Authority (PA) ministry of health in Ramallah, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria surged to 7,372 (as of July 22, 2020), when it began to level off (although it is too early to say the surge of the second wave has ended). Of the active cases, 4,074 are in the Hebron district, and account for 61% of the total number. So far there have been 79 deaths, most of them in the Hebron district (as of July 22, 2020). As opposed to the general trend in the PA territories, the number of cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods continues to rise, and the number of active cases currently stands at 1,685 (up from 1,332 last week and 160 at the beginning of July 2020).[1]

  • The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) is approaching during which gatherings are usually held, which raises concerns among senior PA figures because of the rise in infection. The PA minister of health said the return of Palestinian workers to the PA territories from Israel for the holiday can be expected to increase the number of active cases. She called on Palestinians working in Israel not to return to the PA. She said every returning Palestinian would be required to be tested.
Rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria

Rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria

The Spread of COVID-19 in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip
  • The outbreak of COVID-19 in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip:
      • The number active cases in the Hebron district declined following the recovery of several hundred patients. Relative to the total number of residents in Judea and Samaria, the number of active cases Hebron district declined from 73% to 61%.
      • However, the number of active cases in east Jerusalem continues to rise. According to statistics from the PA, there are currently 1,565 active cases (up from 1,332 last week).
      • The number of deaths has risen to 79 (up from 65 last week), most of them from the Hebron district.
      • The district governors continue imposing lockdowns on villages and neighborhoods where active COVID-19 cases are detected. The PA security services and police enforce the public health guidelines and close businesses and stores where the guidelines are not followed, sometimes harshly. The enforcement of the government’s orders has led to protests against the PA and the Palestinian security services.
      • The spread of the virus and the ensuing stricter limitations continue to pose a challenge to the PA’s governance capabilities. This past week local residents in Balata, a village near Nablus, rioted against the security services because of the enforcement of a local lockdown. The secretary of the Fatah branch in the village was shot and killed by the Palestinian police. After his death hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in “rage marches.” Mahmoud Abbas, in an attempt to calm the situation, ordered an investigation of the shooting and declared the victim a shaheed.
      • Preparations are being made in the PA for Eid al-Adha (July 31 to August 3, 2020). The holiday is a source of concern because of the spread of COVID-19. The Palestinian minister of health announced that there will be no lockdowns during the holiday. The PA is currently weighing which preventive measures to take during the holiday. Palestinians working in Israel have been asked not to return to the PA territories for Eid al-Adha.
      • In the Gaza Strip two new cases of COVID-19 were detected this past week (two Palestinians who returned to the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing). The number of active cases remains stable at five. In the meantime, preparations are being made to care for the thousands of Palestinians expected to leave or enter the Gaza Strip.
Geographical Distribution of COVID-19 Epicenters
Overview
  • The geographical distribution of the 6,631 active COVID-19 cases, by district: Hebron, 4,074; Bethlehem, 279; Nablus, 247; Ramallah, 611; the villages around Jerusalem, 841; Tulkarm, 55; Jericho, 251; Qalqilya, 135; Jenin, 65; Salfit, 25; and Tubas, 48.
The distribution of active cases in the PA districts

The distribution of active cases in the PA districts

The distribution of deaths in Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip

The distribution of deaths in Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip

Map of the distribution of active COVID-19 cases in the PA districts (corona.ps website, July 26, 2020).
Map of the distribution of active COVID-19 cases in the PA districts
(corona.ps website, July 26, 2020).

Hebron district

This past week there was a decline in the number of active cases in the Hebron district, after several hundred patients recovered. The number of active cases now stands at 4,074, down from 4,810 last week (as of the evening of July 26, 2020). The Hebron district now accounts for 61% of all active cases in Judea and Samaria.

Spread of COVID-19 in the Hebron district

Spread of COVID-19 in the Hebron district

  • Despite the decline in the number of cases, public health guidelines and orders continue to be enforced and stores and businesses that violate them are closed by the Palestinian security services. Jibrin al-Bakri, the Hebron district governor, said he would extend the easing of the restrictions for Eid al-Adha. However, he said the ban on gatherings and mass events would continue to be strictly enforced (Ma’an TV, July 23, 2020).

Inspection teams in the Hebron district visit a local business
 (Facebook page of the Hebron district governor, July 22, 2020).
Inspection teams in the Hebron district visit a local business
(Facebook page of the Hebron district governor, July 22, 2020).

  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, said the ministry had sent equipment to the government hospital in Dura and it now had 16 ventilators. The southern wing of the Alia hospital in Hebron was prepared for treating COVID-19 patients and was equipped with ten ventilators (Wafa, July 21, 2020).
Bethlehem district

This past week the number of active COVID-19 cases declined to 279, down from 423 last week. The week marked the first COVID-19 death in the district.

  • The Bethlehem district governor said public health conditions in the district were still poor despite the decline in the number of cases, and that the situation could worsen at any time. He said the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus would continue in the near future. He called on all Bethlehem district residents to limit their movements and to refrain from visits and all mass events. He said that in the near future restrictions for Eid al-Adha would be issued (Ma’an, July 23, 2020).
Nablus district

This past week there was a significant increase in the spread of the infection, with 247 active cases, up from 113 last week. Therefore, Ibrahim Ramadan, the Nablus governor, imposed a lockdown on the village of Balata, where 19 cases were detected (Facebook page of Ibrahim Ramadan, July 21, 2020).

PA security services disinfect the village of Balata
 (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).
    PA security services disinfect the village of Balata
 (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).
PA security services disinfect the village of Balata
(Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, July 22, 2020).
  • The lockdown led local residents to riot against the security services, who closed a store open in violation of government orders and detained the owner (July 25, 2020). Imad Dweikat, the secretary of the Fatah branch in Balata, was shot and killed, and a number of residents were wounded. His death led to riots and “rage marches” during which stones were thrown at security services operatives and streets were blocked. The security services fired tear gas canisters at the residents (QudsN, July 25, 2020; aljazeera.net, July 26, 2020). (See below)[2]
"Rage marches" in Balata following the killing of Imad Dweikat, Fatah branch secretary 
(QudsN Twitter account, July 25, 2020).
    "Rage marches" in Balata following the killing of Imad Dweikat, Fatah branch secretary 
(QudsN Twitter account, July 25, 2020).
“Rage marches” in Balata following the killing of Imad Dweikat, Fatah branch secretary
(QudsN Twitter account, July 25, 2020).
  •  Ibrahim Ramadan, Nablus district governor, expressed sorrow at the death of Imad al-Din Dweikat. He called on everyone to act responsibly, added that according to instructions from Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, the event would be investigated. He called on the residents of Balata to act responsibly to prevent a civil war and to preserve public order (Ibrahim Ramadan’s Facebook page, July 25, 2020).
Ramallah district

The number of active cases in the Ramallah district rose this past week to 611, up from 485 last week.

  • In the Jalazone refugee camp, which is an epicenter of the disease in the district, no new cases have been detected in recent days, and seven patients have recovered (Facebook page of the popular committee for services in the Jalazone refugee camp, July 25, 2020). However, the number of cases rose in the Deir Omar refugee camp [unknown statistic]. Hassan Safi, chairman of the popular committee in the refugee camp, said the number of cases rose because people with active cases did not follow self-quarantine orders and continued to come in contact with others, open stores and walk around the streets.
  • Therefore, Laila Ghannam, Ramallah and al-Bireh district governor, met with the chairmen of the refugee camp’s popular committee and the emergency committee, and with representatives of the security services. She was updated on the difficulties encountered by the emergency committee, which were unsuccessful in their attempt to keep active COVID-19 cases at home. She asked for the refugee camp to be locked down (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, July 23, 2020).
Qalqilya district

This past week the number of active cases in the Qalqilya district rose to 135, up from 100 last week. Rafi’ al-Rawajba, Qalqilya district governor, noting the rise in the number of active cases and locations of the epicenters, decided to lock down two villages after three active cases were detected in each (Dunia al-Watan, July 23, 2020). Over the weekend he closed every store and business except for pharmacies and bakeries (Dunia al-Watan, Rafi’ al-Rawajba’s Facebook page, July 23, 2020).

Wedding in the village of Jeet in the Qalqilya district. According to the family, in accordance with government decisions and the orders of the district governor, only close family members were invited (jeetpalestine Facebook page, July 21 and 23, 2020).   Wedding in the village of Jeet in the Qalqilya district. According to the family, in accordance with government decisions and the orders of the district governor, only close family members were invited (jeetpalestine Facebook page, July 21 and 23, 2020).
Wedding in the village of Jeet in the Qalqilya district. According to the family, in accordance with government decisions and the orders of the district governor, only close family members were invited (jeetpalestine Facebook page, July 21 and 23, 2020).
Jericho district

This past week the number of active cases in the Jericho district spiked to 251, up from 98 last week. The governor imposed a full lockdown of the entire district (Wafa, July 22, 2020).

Salfit district

This past week the number of active cases in the Salfit district rose to 25, up from 21 last week. Abdallah Kamil, the Salfit district governor, said that after the four new cases had been detected he decided to lock down the city of Salfit and a number of villages for 48 hours (Sawa, July 23, 2020).

The villages around Jerusalem

This past week the number of active cases in the villages around Jerusalem spiked to 841, up from 405 last week.

  • The following is an update of the situation in some of the villages:
    • Bayt Surik (in the northwestern part of the PA’s Jerusalem district): 27 active cases were detected (as of July 25, 2020). Local residents were called on to take all precautionary measures and not to gather (Facebook page of the Bayt Surik municipality, July 25, 2020). The municipality announced that according to recommendations from the ministry of health and the security services, any person who was required to self-isolate and violated the order would be transferred to the al-Nuwaimeh health center near Jericho (Facebook page of the Bayt Surik municipality, July 20, 2020). Civil defense teams disinfected the houses of a number of active COVID-19 cases in Bayt Surik (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 24, 2020).
    • Al-Ram: The public health committee in the PA Jerusalem district, accompanied by police, preventive security, customs and inspectors from the national economic ministry visited stores, businesses and restaurants in al-Ram to examine the implementation of the preventive measures ordered by the government (COVID-19 Facebook page of the PA’s Jerusalem district, July 22, 2020). The civil defense administration in the PA Jerusalem district monitored and disinfected a number of kindergartens in al-Ram (PA civil defense Facebook page, July 23, 2020).
    • Al-E’izariya: The public health committee in the PA Jerusalem district, accompanied by police, preventive security, the al-E’izariya municipality and inspectors from the national economic ministry visited 70 stores, businesses and restaurants in al-E’izaria to the implementation of the emergency situation preventive measures ordered by the government (Facebook page of COVID-19 information in the PA’s Jerusalem district, July 21, 2020).
    • Qatana: Colonel Riad Mari’, the deputy commander of the general security service in the villages around Jerusalem, accompanied by security service officers and the head of the Jerusalem district’s health department visited the town of Qatana and met with the head of the municipality. They discussed the needs of the local residents, and stressed the prevention of gatherings and the closing of reception venues and mourning tents (“Friends of the Palestinian national security services – Jerusalem and the suburbs” Facebook page, July 20, 2020).
The head of the Qatana local municipality meets with operatives of the Palestinian security services ("Friends of the Palestinian national security services – Jerusalem and the suburbs" Facebook page, July 20, 2020).    The head of the Qatana local municipality meets with operatives of the Palestinian security services ("Friends of the Palestinian national security services – Jerusalem and the suburbs" Facebook page, July 20, 2020).
The head of the Qatana local municipality meets with operatives of the Palestinian security services (“Friends of the Palestinian national security services – Jerusalem and the suburbs” Facebook page, July 20, 2020).
East Jerusalem

This past week the number of active cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods continued to rise. According to reports from the PA the number of active cases rose to 1,565, up from 1,332 last week and 160 at the beginning of July 2020, and several hundred patients recovered. According to the PA ministry of health, the total number of COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem since the outbreak of the disease is 2,665.

Active cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods (since the end of May 2020)

Active cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods (since the end of May 2020)

Total COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem (since the beginning of May 2020)

Total COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem (since the beginning of May 2020)

COVID-19 infection in east Jerusalem neighborhoods
(according to data from the Jerusalem municipality, updated to July 27, 2020)

COVID-19 infection in east Jerusalem neighborhoods (according to data from the Jerusalem municipality, updated to July 27, 2020)

  • According to data from the Jerusalem municipality (Israel), the number of active cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods is 2,019 (as of July 27, 2020), higher than the 1,565 active cases reported by the PA.
Preventive Measures

"Disregard" [i.e., ignoring public health guidelines] as the main cause of the rise in COVID-19 cases (al-Quds, July 20, 2020).
“Disregard” [i.e., ignoring public health guidelines] as the main cause of the rise in COVID-19 cases (al-Quds, July 20, 2020).

Palestinians working in Israel
  • This past week the issue of the Palestinians working in Israel again arose, especially in view of Eid al-Adha at the end of this week, during which workers are expected to return to the PA territories. According to Shaher Sa’ad, secretary general of the PA’s association of workers’ unions, about 45,000 holders of official work permits are expected to return to the Palestinian territories from Israel by July 29, 2020, in time for Eid al-Adha. An additional 50,000 workers with various work permits are also expected to return. He said there are at least 113 openings through which Palestinian workers enter and leave Israel (palsawa, July 25, 2020).
  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, said COVID-19 can be expected to spread following the entrance of thousands of workers from Israel for Eid al-Adha. She called on Palestinian workers not to return to the PA territories, adding that the cessation of coordination with Israel makes it difficult for Palestinians to return to their homes. She said every Palestinian returning from Israel would have to be tested for COVID-19 (Wafa, July 23, 2020).
Establishing a quarantine facility in Jericho
  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, said the quarantine facility established at al-Nuwaimeh in Jericho would open next week. It will be directed by the Palestinian general security services. She added it would be turned into a quarantine center for PA COVID-19 patients and those who had no place to self-isolate (Wafa, July 23, 2020).
Opening kindergartens
  • A meeting was held of the operations room for the struggle against COVID-19, where PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the opening of the kindergartens that met all the conditions (Wafa, July 22, 2020). The Palestinian ministry of welfare announced daycare centers would open on July 26, 2020. Opening the centers, he said, was not obligatory and the decision would rest with the directors. Centers where COVID-19 was detected would be closed for 14 days (Sawa, July 21, 2020).
The Capabilities of the PA’s Public Health System
  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, said the PA has not lost control of the COVID-19 outbreak. She stressed the difficulties, especially the limitations Israel places on the work of the security services in Area C. She added that the ministry of health has a reserve of test kits sufficient for two months and was working with international institutions to purchase more. She said that so far the ministry of health had administered 160,000 tests and the percentage of false results was 3%, mainly caused by mistakes in entering data (Wafa, July 21, 2020).
  • The Palestinian police delivered 50,000 test kits to the ministry of health (Facebook page of journalist Samer al-Sharawi, July 26, 2020).
Support for the PA
  • Over the past week the PA received donations to support its fight against COVID-19:
    • Muhammad Shtayyeh announced that 18 shipments of medical equipment had arrived through the UN from various countries, and 22 additional shipments would arrive in the coming days. He also announced the enlistment of 2,000 volunteers from the universities who would support the ministry of health (Wafa, July 22, 2020)
    • Muhammad Shtayyeh signed an agreement with the French Development Agency for €10 million for the health, water and energy sectors, and for civilian society institutions. According to a report, €1.3 million will be allotted to the ministry of health to finance its activities against the spread of COVID-19 (Wafa, July 23, 2020).

France gives the PA financial support, €1.3 million to be allotted to the PA ministry of health (Ma'an, July 23, 2020).
France gives the PA financial support, €1.3 million to be allotted to the PA ministry of health (Ma’an, July 23, 2020).

  • The EU donated €4 million as part of an UNRWA humanitarian program which identifies immediate needs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip for the war on COVID-19. The EU will finance the program for a year and the donation will help stabilize UNRWA’s health centers, including in east Jerusalem. Thus they will be able to respond better to the pandemic by emphasizing the more vulnerable populations (UNRWA website, July 20, 2020).
The Gaza Strip
The extent of infection

This past week the ministry of health in Gaza reported two new COVID-19 cases. Both were Palestinians who returned to the Gaza Strip through the Beit Hanoun roadblock (the Erez Crossing), and they are currently in a quarantine center (ministry of health in Gaza Twitter account, July 21 and 25, 2020). There are five active cases (as of July 26, 2020). According to the daily report for the ministry of health in Gaza, 70 patients have recovered, 14 of whom were transferred to isolation centers to complete the quarantine period, and 56 were discharged to their homes. So far 13,716 COVID-19 tests have been administered in the Gaza Strip (Dunia al-Watan, July 26, 2018).

Preparations for opening the Rafah Crossing
  • Salama Marouf, head of the government information bureau in Gaza, said opening the Rafah Crossing for the entrance of Palestinians stranded outside the Gaza Strip depended on the completion of the quarantine center in Deir al-Balah and the preparation of quarantine centers in the northern and southern Gaza Strip. He added it also depended on the formulation of a health protocol for their return. Two thousand Palestinians will return through the Rafah Crossing, many of whom may have COVID-19 (Filastin al-Yawm, July 21, 2020).
  • Tawfiq Abu Na’im, deputy minister of the interior in Gaza, said that more than 3,000 Palestinians need to exit the Gaza Strip, and several thousand have requested to enter. He said the ministry of the interior had formulated a program to manage entrances and exits to guard everyone’s health. He said it was impossible to waive security measures and there would be no exceptions, and that anyone who entered the Gaza Strip would be quarantined (al-Ra’i news agency, July 25, 2020).
Preparations for a worst-case scenario
  • The Hayat Center of Emergency and Crisis Management,[3] in collaboration with the medical faculty of the Islamic University in Gaza, held a conference to evaluate an experiment of the health sector in the Gaza Strip to manage a COVID-19 crisis with the objective of learning lessons and improving future preparedness. Abd al-Nasser Sabah, W.H.O. representative in Gaza, indicated the need to increase preparations by examining scenarios for an outbreak of the virus and by drills to increase the preparedness of government hospitals to expose gaps in logistics. He called for paying greater to manpower and stressed the severity of the situation for the Gaza Strip should the virus get out of control (Hayat Center Facebook page, July 19, 2020).

[1] According to the Jerusalem municipality (Israel), the number of cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods is far greater than the statistics given by the PA and currently stands at 2,019 active cases (as of July 27, 2020).
[2] Violence between local residents and the security services is an exceptional occurrence. On July 3, 2020, armed rioters attacked security service operatives who arrived in the town of Qabatiya to enforce the curfew. The riot in Qabatiya was local, while the riot in Balata was well publicized because of the death of the Fatah branch secretary.

[3] The Hayat Center of Emergency and Crisis Management is a center for emergency and crisis training and is part of the medical faculty of the Islamic University. Its director is senior Hamas figure Dr. Bassem Na'im.