The Fight Against COVID-19 in the Palestinian Authority (PA) (Updated to May 25, 2020)

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Muhammad Shtayyeh announces the relaxation of some of the preventive measures (QudsN Facebook page, May 25, 2020).

Muhammad Shtayyeh announces the relaxation of some of the preventive measures (QudsN Facebook page, May 25, 2020).

Mass Eid al-Fitr prayers in an open public area in Jericho (Wafa, May 24, 2020).

Mass Eid al-Fitr prayers in an open public area in Jericho (Wafa, May 24, 2020).

The UAE plane arrives with aid for the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the Israeli foreign ministry, May 20, 2020).

The UAE plane arrives with aid for the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the Israeli foreign ministry, May 20, 2020).

Mai al-Kayla, the Palestinian minister of health, at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Egypt (Wafa, May 22, 2020).

Mai al-Kayla, the Palestinian minister of health, at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Egypt (Wafa, May 22, 2020).

The Palestinian minister of health at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Saudi Arabia (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020)

The Palestinian minister of health at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Saudi Arabia (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020)

Overview
  • The main developments in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Judea and Samaria are the following (updated to May 25, 2020):
    • Over the past several days there has been no change in the number of coronavirus cases in Judea and Samaria. The number of active cases has declined and currently stands at 25. Almost all the cases (24) are in the Hebron district. One case is in the area around Jerusalem.
    • For Eid al-Fitr the PA announced a series of preventive measures and a general lockdown during the two-day holiday. The various districts reported many cases of people disregarding the guidelines and even protesting in light of the decrease in infection. PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the relaxation of some restrictions which will go into effect after Eid al-Fitr, including a lifting of the ban on holding prayers in al-Aqsa mosque.
    • Before Eid al-Fitr about 30,000 Palestinians working in Israel returned to the PA territories. According to reports, they were examined and found free of COVID-19.
  • Thus, the fight against COVID-19 has so far been successful, allowing the PA to turn most of its attention to its political, legal and media campaign against what it considers Israel’s intention to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.
COVID-19 Infection in Judea and Samaria
Overview

For the past several days there has been no change in the overall reported number of COVID-19 cases, and it remains 368. The number of active cases has declined and now stands at 25, 24 from the Hebron district and one from the area around Jerusalem. Quarantined at home are 32,300 Palestinians. Since the outbreak of the virus 54,000 Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have been tested for the virus (statistics updated to May 25, 2020, from the Facebook page of the PA ministry of health).

The reported number of active COVID-19 cases in the PA territories [1]

The reported number of active COVID-19 cases in the PA territories

The overall reported number of COVID-19 cases in the PA territories [2]

The overall reported number of COVID-19 cases in the PA territories

Infection in the Hebron region
  • Twenty-four of the 25 active cases are concentrated in the Hebron district. Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of Hebron, said that according to the statistics the situation in the Hebron district is not good. He expects that more local residents may be infected and therefore intends to implement stricter measures in his district (Sawa, May 28, 2020). Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the mayor of Bayt Ula (where the outbreak of the disease was detected). He enquired about the local residents who were ill and instructed the mayor to provide everything needed to ease suffering of the village and prevent others from being infected (Wafa, May 18, 2020).
The rate of COVID-19 spread in Hebron[3]

The rate of COVID-19 spread in Hebron

East Jerusalem neighborhoods
  • According to reports from the Palestinian ministry of health in east Jerusalem there has been no change in the number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the epidemic, an overall reported number of 179 cases, 59 of them active (as of May 24, 2020).
The reported number of active COVID-19 cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods[4]

The reported number of active COVID-19 cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods

The overall reported number of COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem since the outbreak of the epidemic[5]

The overall reported number of COVID-19 cases in east Jerusalem since the outbreak of the epidemic

Relaxation of Preventive Measures in the Near Future
  • On May 25, 2020, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said there would be a relaxation of some preventive measures in the near future [i.e., after Eid al-Fitr] (Wafa, May 25, 2020):
    • May 26, 2020: Mosques and churches will open for morning prayers. Businesses will open and commercial activity will also begin, in accordance with guidelines and safety measures.
    • May 27, 2020: Courthouses, government ministries and governmental authorities will open.
    • As of June 1, 2020: Palestinian students residing abroad will be permitted to return to the PA territories through Jordan.
  • Muhammad Shtayyeh also announced additional measures expected to be implemented in the near future: the removal of the barriers between the various districts; the opening of coffee houses, restaurants and gyms, which will operate in accordance with the guidelines and restrictions of the PA ministry of health; reception venues will be able to operate in accordance with guidelines currently being prepared; and while schools and universities will remain closed, but members of the administrations and faculties will be permitted to enter the buildings.
Opening al-Aqsa mosque
  • The council of the waqf, Islam and the holy sites decided to revoke the ban on the entrance of worshippers into al-Aqsa mosque after Eid al-Fitr (Wafa, May 19, 2020). According to Sheikh Muhammad Salim, the official deliverer of sermons at al-Aqsa mosque, the mosque is expected to reopen the week after Eid al-Fitr. He called on local residents to be careful and take the necessary steps to avoid being infected (Dunia al-Watan, May 22, 2020).
Palestinians returning from abroad
  • Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, reported that Jordan had agreed to open the international airport in Amman to make it possible for Palestinian residents and students to return after having been stranded in various countries around the globe. He said the PA was currently coordinating the details and flight dates (Wafa, May 22, 2020). He added that they would begin returning on June 10, 2020, and transfer directly from the airport to the Allenby Bridge. He made it clear the returning residents would pay the costs of the flights and the transfer out of their own pockets. Upon arrival they will be examined by the PA ministry of health before being dispersed to the various districts (Wafa, May 22, 2020).
Disregard for Instructions during Eid al-Fitr
  • This week marks Eid al-Fitr, the two-day holiday which ends the Ramadan fasts. On the evening of May 22, 2020, the emergency measures for the holiday decided on by the PA’s ministry of the interior went into effect. Among them are a full ban on movement between all the districts in Judea and Samaria until the evening of May 25, 2020; a ban of gathering in public places; closing all public facilities, businesses, companies and offices; and ending all types of commercial activities with the exception of bakeries and pharmacies, which will remain open, although Palestinians may only go to them on foot (Wafa, May 20, 2020).
Local residents distribute pastries to the Palestinian security forces for Eid al-Fitr (Wafa, May 24, 2020).    Right: The
Right: The Palestinian security forces keep Palestinians from driving in the Ramallah district. Left: Local residents distribute pastries to the Palestinian security forces for Eid al-Fitr (Wafa, May 24, 2020).
  • Some social media users criticized the strict instructions issued for the holiday. Many wondered what benefit would come from them since as far as they could see, the PA had already successfully stopped the spread of the virus. It would seem that their criticism reflected the public’s mindset and led to many instances where the population disregarded the guidelines.
  • Thus despite the general lockdown, movement between the districts continues and thousands of Palestinians prayed in the mosques. Many visited the mosques in Hebron, Tulkarm, Jenin, Nablus and Bethlehem. A number of Palestinians held prayers in the open area in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs (Sawa, May 24, 2020). A rally was held in Salfit to protest the PA decision to close stores and limit movement (Palinfo Twitter account, May 23, 2020). A night march was held in Hebron to protest the lockdown. The marchers chanted slogans calling on local residents to return to their routine lives (Paldf Twitter account, May 24, 2020). There were clashes in Tubas between local residents and operatives of the PA security forces (Paldf Twitter account, May 24, 2020).

Mass Eid al-Fitr prayers in an open public area in Jericho (Wafa, May 24, 2020).
Mass Eid al-Fitr prayers in an open public area in Jericho
(Wafa, May 24, 2020).

Workers return from Israel
  • Muhammad Shtayyeh said that about 30,000 Palestinian workers had returned from Israel to the PA territories for Eid al-Fitr. Teams from the PA ministry of health were waiting for them, together with Palestinian security force operatives and officials from the ministries of health and civilian affairs. All those who returned were examined in specially erected facilities (Facebook page of the PA ministry of labor, May 22, 2020). Muhammad Shtayyeh reported that about 5,400 tests had been conducted and all the results were negative (Wafa, May 25, 2020).
Examining workers at the Tarqumiya Crossing who returned to the PA (Facebook page of the PA ministry of labor, May 22. 2018).    Teams from the PA ministry of labor wait at the Tarqumiya Crossing to receive Palestinian workers returning from Israel.
Right: Teams from the PA ministry of labor wait at the Tarqumiya Crossing to receive Palestinian workers returning from Israel. Left: Examining workers at the Tarqumiya Crossing who returned to the PA (Facebook page of the PA ministry of labor, May 22. 2018).
Foreign Aid for the PA
  • On May 19, 2020, a UAE plane belonging to the Itihad airline landed in Ben-Gurion International Airport. It took off from Abu Dhabi carrying 14 tones of medical equipment sent by the UAE for the PA and Gaza (Reuters, May 19, 2018). According to “knowledgeable sources,” the PA government refused to accept the medical equipment donated by the UAE. According to Mai al-Kayla, the PA minister of health, the PA refused because there had been no coordination regarding the equipment’s arrival. She said shipments should be coordinated with the PA, which was a sovereign country. PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh claimed the government learned of the arrival of the plane and its contents from the media (Ma’an, Sawa, Dunia al-Watan, May 21, 2020).
  • Aid arriving from abroad:
    • An EU delegation police support delegation gave the Palestinian police PPE and disinfectants worth €60,000. The aid is expected to meet the needs of the police for three months. It also includes 45,000 masks for ordinary use, 5,000 higher-quality masks, protective goggles, protective suits and hand sanitizer (Wafa, May 19, 2020)
    • The EU representative in the PA said the EU would give the PA €180 million in addition to the funds it had already received to fight the coronavirus (Wafa, May 21, 2020).
    • A truck arrived from Egypt for the PA ministry of health, bringing medical equipment and PPE (Wafa, May 22, 2020). Mai al-Kayla, the Palestinian minister of health, and the Egyptian ambassador to the PA attended a reception in Ramallah for the delivery of the equipment (Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 22, 2020).
    • The minister of health said the ministry had received the first part of a Saudi Arabian aid package to fight COVID-19, which included 100 hospital beds. She said more medical equipment would arrive. In her own name and as representing Mahmoud Abbas she thanked Saudi Arabian King Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz for the aid (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020).
The Palestinian minister of health at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Saudi Arabia (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020)   The Palestinian minister of health at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Saudi Arabia (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020)
The Palestinian minister of health at the reception held for the delivery of medical equipment from Saudi Arabia (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health, May 20, 2020)

[1] According to the Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 18-25, 2020.

[2] According to the Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 18-25, 2020.


[3] According to the Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 18-25, 2020. The statistics relate to the overall number of cases, not active cases.


[4] According to the Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 18-25, 2020.


[5] According to the Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, May 18-25, 2020.



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