The Spread of covid-19 in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (Updated January 25, 2021)

Testing equipment from the W.H.O. (Facebook page of W.H.O. headquarters in the PA territories, January 23, 2021).

Testing equipment from the W.H.O. (Facebook page of W.H.O. headquarters in the PA territories, January 23, 2021).

Ministry of the interior in Gaza Twitter account, January 22, 2021). All worshippers are wearing masks.

Ministry of the interior in Gaza Twitter account, January 22, 2021). All worshippers are wearing masks.

EsVBr0qXEAMmntwFriday prayer in the mosques in the Gaza Strip (Right: Palestine Online Twitter account, January 22, 2021.

EsVBr0qXEAMmntwFriday prayer in the mosques in the Gaza Strip (Right: Palestine Online Twitter account, January 22, 2021.

The promenade in the Gaza Strip: local residents enjoy the easing of the lockdown restrictions (Facebook page of Usama al-Kahlut, January 23, 2021).

The promenade in the Gaza Strip: local residents enjoy the easing of the lockdown restrictions (Facebook page of Usama al-Kahlut, January 23, 2021).

A wedding in the village of Dura in the Ramallah district (Facebook page of Master Cassette, January 17, 2021).

A wedding in the village of Dura in the Ramallah district (Facebook page of Master Cassette, January 17, 2021).

An engagement party in Deir Abu Mash'al (northwest of Ramallah) (Facebook page of a local Ramallah studio, January 22, 2021).

An engagement party in Deir Abu Mash'al (northwest of Ramallah) (Facebook page of a local Ramallah studio, January 22, 2021).

Engagement party in a wedding hall in Anata (Facebook page of Alizz Studio, January 21, 2021).

Engagement party in a wedding hall in Anata (Facebook page of Alizz Studio, January 21, 2021).

Engagement party in a wedding hall in Anata (Facebook page of Alizz Studio, January 21, 2021).

Engagement party in a wedding hall in Anata (Facebook page of Alizz Studio, January 21, 2021).

A wedding in Kafr 'Aqab (al-Fakhouri Recordings Facebook page, January 23, 2021)

A wedding in Kafr 'Aqab (al-Fakhouri Recordings Facebook page, January 23, 2021)

Overview
  • The situation in the Gaza Strip:
    • The number of new infections and active covid-19 cases in Gaza continues to decline. Between January 19 and 25, 2021, 1,806 new cases were detected. The number of active cases currently stands at 4,984, down from 6,258 a week ago. There have been 508 deaths, up from 487 a week ago.
    • However, spokesmen for the health system in the Gaza Strip warn the public to continue employing preventive measures. They are concerned that a new mutant strain might enter the Gaza Strip, brought in by patients who were treated in hospitals in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
    • In light of the ongoing reduction in the number of new infections, after six consecutive weekend lockdowns, restrictions will be eased, as follows: Gazans can leave their houses on the weekend and attend the Friday prayers in the mosques. Fisherman may fish on the weekend. The education system will reopen from kindergartens through high schools.
    • The ministry of health is planning to change the status of the European Hospital from coronavirus-designated to providing other types of services (a return to the status of March 2020).
  • The situation in Judea and Samaria:
    • The number of new infections and active covid-19 cases in Judea and Samaria continues to decline. There are currently 3,501 active cases, down from 4,501 a week ago. Of the daily tests administered, 12.65% were positive, down from 13.3% a week ago. The Ramallah district has the highest number of cases in Judea and Samaria, after weeks of being second to the Nablus district.
    • Palestinians in Judea and Samaria continue ignoring preventive measures, especially the ban on gatherings. This past week there were large numbers of weddings and engagement parties in the Jenin, Qalqilya and Ramallah districts, as well as in the villages around Jerusalem and Kafr ‘Aqab, which is under Jerusalem municipality jurisdiction.
    • The Palestinian Authority (PA) public health system is particularly worried about the spread of the British mutant coronavirus strain, and its spokesman have called on the public to continue employing preventive measures. Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, reported 17 Palestinians infected with the mutant virus in the Jerusalem region. They were quarantined and their families are being monitored.
    • Vaccines have not yet arrived in the PA. The shipment of the first 5,000 doses is expected to arrive from Russia in the coming days. A shipment of 100,000 doses is expected to be delivered during February. The PA is in contact with a number of companies developing the vaccine (in Russia and China, and Johnson and Johnson in the United States).
The Gaza Strip
Extent of the covid-19 infection

The slowdown in the spread of covid-19 in the Gaza Strip continues. Between January 19 and 25, 2021, 1,806 new cases were detected, down from 2,354 a week ago. There are currently 4,984 active cases, down from 6,258 a week ago. There have been 508 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 487 a week ago. Of the 108 hospitalized patients, 54 are in serious or critical condition, down from 161 and 82 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
  • This past week the number of active cases in the Gaza Strip continued to decline. Dr. Yusuf al-Akkad, director of the European Hospital, called the epidemiological situation in the Gaza Strip “stable.” He said that if it continued he would inform the committee combatting the covid-19 crisis to further ease restrictions. He added that the limited movement to and from the Gaza Strip prevented the arrival of new infected individuals, including those carrying the new mutant strain of the virus. In addition, the demographics of the Gaza Strip helped prevent the virus from spreading because the percentage of young people is high relative to other countries. He said that they expected a rise in the number of infections in February because of the rise in neighboring countries, and warned local residents not to become lax in employing preventive measures (Dunia al-Watan, January 24, 2021).
  • According to Dr. Rami Abadla, head of the department monitoring infectious diseases in the ministry of health in Gaza, about a month ago the rate of positive coronavirus test results was between 40% and 45%, and has dropped to 15% (in effect, he said, the rate was far higher). In December 2020 the number of seriously ill patients in need of ICU care reached 240 and today is 74. He said that at the height of the epidemic the ministry of health had successfully controlled the situation without experiencing a shortage of medical teams or other problems, and that hospitalization was available for everyone who needed it (Palestine Online, January 22, 2021).
  • Despite the decline in infection, medical professionals continue warning that Gaza is still in danger and the epidemic has not yet been defeated. For example:
    • Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, said that despite the recent decline in mortality and morbidity rates, and despite the consistent decline in the number of infected and hospitalized Gazans, more time and effort are needed to flatten the curve of the spread of the infection. He also said that the assessment of the ministry of health committees, that the epidemic would peak between the middle of December 2020 and January 1 2021, had been correct. He also said that even at the peak of the epidemic, the number of seriously and critically ill patients had not exceeded the ability of the health system to hospitalize and treat them (Sabaq24, January 19, 2021).
    • Dr. Amid Mushtaha, head of the department of laboratories in the ministry of health in Gaza, said the number of new active cases had begun to decline significantly thanks to the measures instituted by the ministries of health and the interior, especially the weekend lockdowns. However, he added that the danger was still increasing because of the drop in temperature, which leads to an increase in the spread of viruses. He called on all Gazans to continue taking preventive measures (Palestine Online, January 20, 2021).
    • Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya, chairman of the emergency committee to combat covid-19 in the ministry of health in Gaza, said it was still too early to say the virus was subsiding in the Gaza Strip or even in the world in general, and therefore they were worried about another outbreak. He said the decline in the number of patients was related to the measures instituted by the ministries of health and the interior in the Gaza Strip, especially the weekend lockdowns, keeping wedding halls closed and preventing gatherings of local residents (Palestine Online, January 24, 2021).
The health system in the Gaza Strip
  • The W.H.O. reported that the health system in the Gaza Strip was in reasonable condition and could cope with the number of hospitalized patients, with no shortage of tests or testing materials. According to the periodical W.H.O. report (updated to January 21, 2021), 24% of the hospital beds allotted for covid-19 patients are currently occupied (129 of 540), as are 18% of the ICU beds (16 of 90). The W.H.O. also reported that according to the health authorities in the Gaza Strip, they have a sufficient number of tests for twenty days, that is, until February 10, 2021 (W.H.O. website, January 21, 2021).
  • Dr. Amid Mushtaha, head of the laboratory department, said the Gaza Strip had a larger quantity of testing materials and other medical supplies for coronavirus tests than previously. There is also no shortage of manpower in the laboratories (Palestine Online, January 20, 2021). Dr. Rami Abadla, head of infectious diseases, said they now had medicals teams and large quantities of oxygen (Palestine Online, January 22, 2021).
  • Dr. Rami Abadla, head of infectious diseases, said that in the near future the ministry of health would announce the restoration of hospital services which had been suspended because of the epidemic, including elective surgeries (Palestine Online, January 22 and 24, 2021). According to Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya, chairman of the emergency committee to combat covid-19, the ministry of health was planning to change the status of the European Hospital from coronavirus-designated to what it had been before March 2020. It will have a building for covid-19 patients and the Turkish Hospital will remain the designated coronavirus hospital (Palestine Online, January 24, 2021).
Concerns regarding the entrance of mutant strains of the virus into the Gaza Strip
  • Medical sources in the Gaza Strip have expressed concern over the possible entrance of the mutant strain of the virus. Dr. Yusuf al-Akkad, director of the European Hospital, said so far no mutant strains had been detected (Sabaq24, January 23, 2021). However, Dr. Majdi Dheir, head of the department of preventive medicine in the ministry of health in Gaza, said they did not know if a strain had arrived because they did not have a test that would detect it (al-Ra’i news agency, January 19, 2021).
  • Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya said the ministry of health was concerned the new strain of the virus would be spread in the Gaza Strip by Gazans who had received medical treatment in hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem (especially after 17 cases were recorded in the West Bank). He said the mutant strain spread quickly and therefore the risk of its spreading in the Gaza Strip was greater because of population density. He said the ministry of health was taking all the necessary precautions, and was in constant contact with the W.H.O. office and the ministry of health in Ramallah for information about the new strain and to prevent its entry into the Gaza Strip (Palestine Online, January 24, 2021). Dr. Fathi Abu Warda, PA advisor to the minister of health in the Gaza Strip, said the new strain was not expected to enter the Gaza Strip because the crossings (Erez and Rafah) were closed (Sama, January 22, 2021).
Acquiring vaccines
  • Dr. Muhammad Abu Salamiya said that so far no vaccines had arrived in the Gaza Strip. He said the W.H.O. promised the vaccines would arrive in the middle of February 2021. He added that the vaccines would be given first to medical teams, then to people with impaired immune systems, the chronically ill and the elderly (Palestine Online, January 24, 2021).
Easing lockdown restrictions
  • Following the decline in infection Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in Gaza, announced measures to ease the restrictions of the weekend lockdowns (announced in December 2020). Beginning on January 24, 2021, during the lockdowns local residents will be allowed to walk around their neighborhoods and will be able to pray in the mosques, including on Fridays. Fishermen will be able to fish during the weekend on the condition that they sell their catch on Sunday, after the lockdown has ended (al-Ra’i news agency, January 21, 2021). However, it will still be forbidden to go from one district to another and to drive. Stores and markets will remain closed. The nightly curfew will remain in force from 20:00 (ministry of the interior website, January 21, 2021).
Gazans exploit the easing of restrictions to walk on the beach near the Nuseirat refugee camp (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 22, 2021).    Gazans exploit the easing of restrictions to walk on the beach near the Nuseirat refugee camp (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 22, 2021).
Gazans exploit the easing of restrictions to walk on the beach near the Nuseirat refugee camp (Facebook page of photojournalist Usama al-Kahlut, January 22, 2021).
Reopening the schools
  • Salameh Maarouf, head of the government information office, said the ministries of education and health had agreed that students from kindergarten to high school would return to frontal learning. All classes will be divided into two groups to reduce crowding and ensure social distancing. There will be frontal learning on two or three days a week and online learning on the remaining days (al-Quds al-Yawm website, January 21, 2021).
Judea and Samaria
Extent of covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria

This past week the number of active cases in Judea and Samaria continued to decline; 2,030 new cases were detected, down from 3,007 a week ago. The current number is 3,501, down from 4,591 a week ago. There are 61 patients in ICUs, 12 on ventilators. During the past week 49 people died, down from 72 a week ago, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,288. In Judea and Samaria an average of 1,855 tests were administered per day, with an average positive infection rate of 12.77%. The PA reported 891 active cases in east Jerusalem, down from 1,023 a week ago. According to the Jerusalem municipality, the number of active cases was 706, down from 889 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)

Locating Palestinians infected with the British mutant strain
  • Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, reported that 17 Palestinians had been found infected with the British mutant strain in the regions of Bayt Surik, Bir Nabala, al-Judeira, Beit Hanina, Shuafat and al-Ram. She said teams from the ministry of health, with teams from the Arab-American University, were monitoring the infection in the aforementioned areas and taking samples from patients. Dr. Usama al-Najjar, director general of medical services in the ministry of health in Ramallah, said the incidence of the spread of coronavirus in the PA territories was still high and therefore they had to continue taking preventive measures (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 21, 2021).
  • Dr. Usama al-Najjar said in a interview that the British mutant strain was very dangerous and its rate of infection and spread were very high, including among the young. He said he expected that in the coming days there would be a rise in the number of people infected by the British strain. He added that all those who had been infected were quarantined at home and under the supervision of teams from the ministry of health in Ramallah (Watan TV, January 24, 2021.
Acquiring vaccines
  • Vaccines have not yet arrived in the PA. PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said they would arrive gradually beginning in February 2021 (al-Araby, January 20, 2021). At the weekly government meeting, Shtayyeh said terrorist government had signed a contract to buy two million doses for $10 million. He said additional vaccines would arrive from various sources (Wafa, January 18, 2021).
  • In the meantime the PA is in contact with a number of vaccine developers:
    • Abd al-Hafiz Nofal, PA representative in Russia, said he estimated that the first shipment of 5,000 doses of Russian vaccine would arrive in the PA in the coming days. A shipment of 100,000 doses will be delivered in February 2021 (Watan TV, January 21, 2021).
    • Mai al-Kayla held a video conference with representatives of Johnson and Johnson,[1] who gave her information about the vaccine being developed by the company and about its third phase of testing. She asked the company to help the PA by sending vaccines when they are ready for marketing (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 21, 2021).
Mai al-Kayla in a video conference with Johnson and Johnson representatives (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 21, 2021).
Mai al-Kayla in a video conference with Johnson and Johnson representatives (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 21, 2021).
  • Mai al-Kayla said in an interview with Chinese TV that she had met with the Chinese representative in the PA and asked him to allot Chinese vaccines to the Palestinians (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, January 18, 2021).
Geographic distribution of COVID-19 epicenters
Overview

According to ministry of health in Ramallah, the distribution of active cases by district, as of January 25, 2021, was Ramallah, 792; Nablus, 762; Tulkarm, 352; Hebron, 317; the villages around Jerusalem, 282; Bethlehem, 253; Qalqilya, 217; Jenin, 175; Tubas, 153; Salfit, 118; and Jericho, 79 (Facebook page ministry of health in Ramallah, January 25, 2020).

The distribution of active cases in the various districts

The distribution of active cases in the various districts

Nablus district

The number of active cases continues to decline significantly in the district after weeks during which it had the second largest number of infections in Judea and Samaria. There are currently 762 active cases, down from 996 a week ago.

Number of active cases in the Nablus district

Number of active cases in the Nablus district

Hebron district

The number of coronavirus infections continues decreasing. There are currently 317 active cases, down from 448 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

The number of active cases decreased to 253 from 342 a week ago.

Jenin district

The number of active cases in decreased this past week to 175 from 351 a week ago.

  • Residents of the Jenin district continue ignoring preventive measures. This past week the Palestinian police handed out hundreds of citations to Jenin residents, store owners and drivers who ignored the lockdown and the public health guidelines determined by the ministry of health (website of the Palestinian police, January 18, 2021).
Signing a wedding agreement in al-Silat an-Harithiya (Facebook page of a local Jenin-district studio, January 22, 2021).    Engagement party in Jenin (Facebook page of Tasjilat al-Safouri, January 22, 2021).
Right: Engagement party in Jenin (Facebook page of Tasjilat al-Safouri, January 22, 2021). Left: Signing a wedding agreement in al-Silat an-Harithiya (Facebook page of a local Jenin-district studio, January 22, 2021).
The Qalqilya district

The number of active cases in the Qalqilya district currently stands at 217, down from 285 a week ago.

  • Rafi’ al-Rawajba, governor of the Qalqilya district, postponed work in the district education department after three employees tested positive (Facebook page of the Qalqilya district governor, January 20, 2018). This past week the police closed stores, confiscated vehicles, broke up wedding parties and mourning tents and handed out citations to several hundred local residents who ignored the preventive measures (website of the Palestinian police, January 23, 2021).
Signing a wedding agreement in Azoun in the Qalqilya district (Facebook page of Fares al-Azouni, January 22, 2021).     Signing a wedding agreement in Azoun in the Qalqilya district (Facebook page of Fares al-Azouni, January 22, 2021).
Signing a wedding agreement in Azoun in the Qalqilya district
(Facebook page of Fares al-Azouni, January 22, 2021).
The Ramallah district

Despite the significant decline in the number of active cases in the Ramallah district, it currently has the highest number of cases in Judea and Samaria. The number of active cases is 792, down from 825 a week ago.

The villages around Jerusalem

The number of active covid-19 cases in the villages around Jerusalem declined to 282 from 326 a week ago. Weddings and other well-attended events continue to be held, some of them, in ITIC assessment, by residents of east Jerusalem.

The East Jerusalem Neighborhoods

According to the PA, 348 new active cases were detected, down from 568 a week ago. The number of active cases is now 891, down from 1,023 a week ago. According to the Jerusalem municipality, there are now 706 active cases, down from 899 a week ago. In most of the neighborhoods the positive rate of test results is around 11%. The neighborhoods with widest infection continue to be Beit Hanina (152 active case) and the Old City (115).

The number of active covid-19 cases in east Jerusalem, according to the PA[2]

The number of active covid-19 cases in east Jerusalem, according to the PA

The extent of covid-19 infection in east Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem municipality, January 24, 2021

The extent of covid-19 infection in east Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem municipality, January 24, 2021

 A wedding in Kafr 'Aqab (al-Fakhouri Recordings Facebook page, January 23, 2021)     A wedding in Kafr 'Aqab (al-Fakhouri Recordings Facebook page, January 23, 2021)
A wedding in Kafr ‘Aqab (al-Fakhouri Recordings Facebook page, January 23, 2021)

[1] Johnson and Johnson is developing a vaccine and plans to distribute one billion doses in 2021 without taking a profit.
[2] According to reports from the PA, for several days there was no change in the level of infection in east Jerusalem. The PA may not have a full record of the extent of infection in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods.