The Spread of Covid-19 in Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (Updated to October 19, 2020)

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Prayers in the mosques renewed (Facebook page of the Covid-19 emergency committee in the Gaza district, October 18, 2020)

Prayers in the mosques renewed (Facebook page of the Covid-19 emergency committee in the Gaza district, October 18, 2020)

Prayers in the mosques renewed (Facebook page of the Covid-19 emergency committee in the Gaza district, October 18, 2020)

Prayers in the mosques renewed (Facebook page of the Covid-19 emergency committee in the Gaza district, October 18, 2020)

National security officers to go schools to instruct students about Covid-19 (ministry of health in Gaza website, October 15, 2020)

National security officers to go schools to instruct students about Covid-19 (ministry of health in Gaza website, October 15, 2020)

National security officers to go schools to instruct students about Covid-19 (ministry of health in Gaza website, October 15, 2020)

National security officers to go schools to instruct students about Covid-19 (ministry of health in Gaza website, October 15, 2020)

The beach in Khan Yunis. No masks, no social distancing (Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, October 16, 2020)

The beach in Khan Yunis. No masks, no social distancing (Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, October 16, 2020)

Overview
  • The situation in the Gaza Strip:
    • This past week the number of active Covid-19 cases in the Gaza Strip continued to rise, and as of October 18, 2020, stood at 1,859, with 574 new cases detected.
    • Despite the upward trend in the numbers, the Hamas administration continues easing restrictions, at the same time attempting to ensure that public health guidelines will be followed. More schools have opened, as have businesses, markets, mosques, public beaches and sporting events without crowds.
    • Medical spokesmen voiced concern over the public’s disregard for health guidelines and preventive measures, and warn that the virus may spread extensively.
    • The public health system in the Gaza Strip has begun making preparations for the annual winter flu season along with Covid-19.
  • The situation in Judea and Samaria:
    • The curve in Judea and Samaria has begun flattening, with 4,411 active cases, although the number is still high. This past week 1,908 new cases were detected. There are 40 patients in ICUs, six on ventilators.
    • Eighteen new Covid-19 deaths were recorded this past week, bringing to total number of 381 as of October 18, 2020.
    • The largest number of Covid-19 cases is currently in the Bethlehem district, but so far there has been no general lockdown. The district governors continue imposing lockdowns specific for time and place, in cities, towns, villages and institutions. Mass gatherings, especially weddings, continue as the main vectors of Covid-19 transmission.
    • The number of active cases in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods continues to decline. According to the ministry of health in Ramallah, as of October 18, 2020, the number of active cases stood at 598, down from 728 on October 11, 2020. According to the Jerusalem municipality, the number of verified cases on October 11, 2020 was 450.
    • The Palestinian public health system has voiced concerns that hospitals may find it impossible to admit both Covid-19 and seasonal flu patients this coming winter.
    • In the wake of the deterioration in his condition, Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, was transferred to the Israeli Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. The hospital spokesperson’s unit reported that on the morning of October 19, 2020 his condition was defined as “critical.”
The Gaza Strip
Extent of the Covid-19 infection

In the Gaza Strip the number of new and active cases continues rising. As of October 18, 2020, the number of active cases stood at 1,859, up from 1,722 on October 13, 2020. So far there have been 28 deaths. The main epicenters (the so-called “red areas”) are in the northern Gaza Strip, most of the Gaza City district and the center of Khan Yunis.

The increase of active cases inside the Gaza Strip over the past week

The increase of active cases inside the Gaza Strip over the past week

Ministry of health in Gaza infographic of the cumulative statistics of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip,
by district
Ministry of health in Gaza infographic of the cumulative statistics of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip, by district
The spread of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip
  • Dr. Mu’tassem Salah, responsible for the quarantine centers in the ministry of health in Gaza, reported that since August 25, 2020, contact tracing revealed 21,866 Palestinians who came in contact with active Covid-19 cases. They were all instructed to self-quarantine at home (Dunia al-Watan, October 15, 2020). Tawfiq Abu Na’im, deputy minister of the interior, told a meeting of the heads of the professional unions in Gaza that local social customs and traditions provide fertile ground for the spread of Covid-19, making it difficult to gain control. Most active cases were spread at large gatherings, such as weddings and mourning tents, which, he said, explained the spread of the virus throughout the entire Gaza Strip (website of the ministry of the interior in Gaza, October 13, 2020).
  • According to Dr. Nasser Salem, from the department of health education in the ministry of health in Gaza, local residents deliberately ignore preventive measures. For example, he said, at one of the markets the number of people following public health guidelines did not exceed 10%. He warned that if local residents did not take the situation seriously the coronavirus would reach every household in the Gaza Strip (al-Ra’i news agency, October 18, 2020).
The outlook for winter
  • Dr. Abd al-Salem Sabah, head of the hospital department in the ministry of health in Gaza, elaborated on a program that would enable hospitals in the Gaza Strip to deal with both Covid-19 and seasonal flu patients. He said every hospital had prepared a ward for Covid-19 patients, for a total number of between 180 and 200 beds. The wards have been provided with emergency equipment to ease the burden on the hospitals designated as Covid-19 hospitals. The European Hospital will be enlarged and the Turkish Hospital will be prepared for the admission of moderately and seriously ill Covid-19 patients. He added that efforts are being made to acquire a large quantity of flu vaccines for inoculating at-risk groups. He added that as soon as the vaccines arrive they will be available without charge at the hospitals. It will also be possible to purchase them at health centers and pharmacies (Palestine Online, October 17 2020).
Easing the lockdown
  • Despite the rise in the number of active cases, the Hamas administration continues taking measures for the gradual restoration of routine daily life, sometimes even in areas designated red. Businesses, mosques, more schools, sports clubs and places of entertainment have been opened:
    •  Prayers in the mosques: The ministry of Muslim endowments in Gaza announced the reopening of the mosques in several districts. In most districts mosques located in neighborhoods designated red were excluded. The mosques were open only for prayers (and not for other activities) and only in compliance with preventive measures (al-Ra’i news agency, October 16, 2020; Facebook page of the emergency Covid-19 committee in the Gaza district, October 17, 2020).
    • Reopening workshops and small factories: Sami al-Amasi, chairman of the general association of workers’ unions in Gaza, said that 500 of 2,000 workshops and small factories were partially open, and that 8,000 of 21,000 workers had returned to their jobs (al-Ra’i news agency, October 15, 2020).
    • Schools: Twelfth grade students returned to school except in areas designated red. On October 17, 2020, schools also opened in some red areas. In the meantime the ministry of education prepared for the second phase of the reopening of the seventh to eleventh grades (Facebook page of the ministry of education in Gaza, October 15, 2020; Facebook page of the department of education in western Gaza City, October 15, 2020). Officers in Hamas’ security forces supervise the implementation of preventive measures and instruct students about the dangers of the coronavirus (website of the ministry of the interior in Gaza, October 15, 2020).
    • Reopening restaurants and places of entertainment: Cafés, restaurants and amusement parks have been allowed to reopen in compliance with public health guidelines (Facebook page of the Palestinian authority for restaurants, hotels and tourist services in the Gaza Strip, October 15, 2020). Kiosks and rest areas were reopened along the beach promenade during daytime hours (Facebook page of the Gaza City municipality, October 15, 2020).
    • Sports: The Hamas administration authorized the reopening of sports events, and indoor and outdoor courts, with the exception of gyms (Facebook page of Abd al-Islam Haniyeh (son of Isma’il Haniyeh), deputy secretary general of the council for youth and sports, October 15, 2020). In the northern Gaza Strip and Khan Yunis districts arenas were opened but without crowds (Facebook page of the Jabalia municipality, October 15, 2020; Facebook page of the Khan Yunis municipality, October 17, 2020).
    • Markets: The emergency Covid-19 committee in the northern Gaza Strip district authorized the opening of more markets (Facebook page of the Jabalia municipality, October 8 and 15, 2020).
Foreign Aid for the Fight against Covid-19 in Gaza
  • The ministry of health in Ramallah announced it had received ten ventilators for the European Hospital in the Gaza Strip (Dunia al-Watan, October 18, 2020). The W.H.O. delivered five containers to Gaza for administering 10,000 Covid-19 tests (Facebook page of the W.H.O. office in the territories, October 14, 2020). The W.H.O. also delivered five oxygen concentrators (Facebook page of the W.H.O. office in the territories, October 15, 2020).
Oxygen concentrators delivered to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. office in the territories, October 15, 2020).    Ventilators delivered to the Gaza Strip (Dunia al-Watan, October 18, 2020).
Right: Ventilators delivered to the Gaza Strip (Dunia al-Watan, October 18, 2020). Left: Oxygen concentrators delivered to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. office in the territories, October 15, 2020).
Judea and Samaria
Extent of Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria
Overview

While the number of verified active cases remains high in Judea and Samaria, the curve is apparently flattening. This past week 1,908 new Covid-19 cases were detected. As of October 18, 2020, the number of active cases in Judea and Samaria stood at 4,411, up from 4,366 on October 11, 2020. The number of deaths in Judea and Samaria is 3,816, up from 363 a week ago. Forty Palestinians are in ICUs, six on ventilators.

Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria since October 10, 2020

Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria since October 10, 2020

  • Usama al-Najar, secretary general of medical services in the ministry of health in Ramallah, said that the ability of the Palestinian hospitals to admit a large number of active cases was limited, and that the ministry of health is concerned about the ability of hospitals to admit both Covid-19 and seasonal flu patients this coming winter (al-Quds, October 13, 2020). Samir al-Assad, in charge of preventive medicine in the Palestinian ministry of health, said that in recent days the curve of verified active cases had flattened and that fatalities stood at 0.8%, lower than the global death rate (Sawa, October 15, 2020).
Saeb Erekat hospitalized in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in critical condition
  • Following the deterioration of the condition of Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, who has Covid-19, and after the PA government issued a request to the government of Israel and the management of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, he was admitted to the ICU for Covid-19 patients in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital (Hadassah spokesman’s unit, October 18, 2020). On October 19, 2020, his condition deteriorated and was “defined as critical…Due to respiratory distress, he was put on a ventilator and placed in a medically-induced coma.” The hospital said treating him was a “huge challenge” because he had undergone a lung transplant three years ago and had a “weakened immune system and bacterial infection, in addition to coronavirus” (BBC, October 19, 2020).
Geographic Distribution of COVID-19 Epicenters
Overview
  • This past week the number of Covid-19 cases in the Hebron district decreased and the Bethlehem district currently has the largest number of active cases. The distribution of active cases in Judea and Samaria (4,411), by district, as of October 18, 2020, was as follows: Bethlehem, 887; Hebron, 784; Ramallah, 434; the villages around Jerusalem, 222; Qalqilya, 254; Nablus, 604; Jericho, 218; Tulkarm, 516; Jenin, 339, Salfit, 70; and Tubas, 83.
The distribution of active cases in the various districts

The distribution of active cases in the various districts

Hebron district

After months of having the largest number of active cases, the number declined to 784 on October 18, 2020, down from 1,015.

Number of active cases in the Hebron district

Number of active cases in the Hebron district

Bethlehem district

As of October 18, 2020, there were 887 active cases in the Bethlehem district, up from 767 a week ago. Bethlehem was the site of the first outbreak of Covid-19, and currently has the largest number of cases.

Nablus district

This past week there was an increase in the number of active cases. As of October 18, 2020, were there 604 active cases, up from 519 a week ago.

  • According to administrative sources in the Nablus district, localized restrictions still apply in infection epicenters but no general lockdown is being imposed. The emergency Covid-19 committee in Nablus temporarily closed the land registry offices to be able to disinfect them after an employee tested positive (Facebook page of the Nablus district governor, October 14, 2020). Cadi Mahmoud al-Habash ordered the temporary closing of the Sharia courts in Nablus after an employee tested positive (Ma’an, October 13, 2020). The police, with the support of the national security services, dispersed three wedding parties and closed three wedding halls (website of the PA police, October 17, 2020).
Jenin district

As of October 18, 2020, there were 339 active cases in the Jenin district, up from 332 last week.

  • Given the rise in infection, Akram al-Rajoub, the Jenin district governor, imposed a lockdown on the city of Jenin, the Jenin refugee camp and the Ya’bed municipality. In the wake of public criticism, on October 16, 2020, he lifted the lockdown on the city (Facebook page of the Jenin district government, October 16, 2020). Police dispersed five wedding parties and closed the wedding halls (website of the PA police, October 15 and 16, 2020).
Qalqilya district

As of October 18, 2020, there were 254 active cases, up from 230 last week.

  • The governor of the Qalqilya district said in a statement that gatherings, including weddings and other celebrations, were the main vectors for the spread of the coronavirus and that participation in them was banned (Facebook page of the Qalqilya district governor, October 18, 2020). The police and security services dispersed five wedding parties (website of the PA police, October 18, 2020).
The villages around Jerusalem

As of October 18, 2020, there were 222 active cases in the villages around Jerusalem, up from 161 a week ago.

Disinfecting in al-Qubeiba and Qatanna, northwest of Jerusalem, including a high school and the Red Crescent center (PA civil defense website, October 14, 2020).   Disinfecting in al-Qubeiba and Qatanna, northwest of Jerusalem, including a high school and the Red Crescent center (PA civil defense website, October 14, 2020).
Disinfecting in al-Qubeiba and Qatanna, northwest of Jerusalem, including a high school and the Red Crescent center (PA civil defense website, October 14, 2020).
The East Jerusalem Neighborhoods

The number of active cases in east Jerusalem neighborhoods is declining. According to the PA, as of October 18, 2020, the number of active cases stood at 598, down from 728 on October 11, 2020. According to the Jerusalem municipality, on October 18, 2020, the number of active cases was 450. According to the PA, since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods, 11,404 local residents contracted the disease, 70 of whom died. Kafr ‘Aqab is the neighborhood with the largest number of cases (75), followed by Beit Hanina (65), the Old City (64) and A-Tor (40) (according to the Jerusalem municipality. See table).

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

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

The total number of Covid-19 cases in east Jerusalem, according to the PA

The total number of Covid-19 cases in east Jerusalem, according to the PA

Infection in east Jerusalem (according to the Jerusalem municipality)

Infection in east Jerusalem (according to the Jerusalem municipality)

Foreign Aid for Fight against Covid-19 the PA
  • The Kuwait Development Fund and the al-Aqsa Fund, both managed by the Islamic Development Bank, transferred $11 million to the Palestinian public health system. According to Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, the PA used the money to purchase medical equipment for the Palestinian hospitals (Facebook page of the Palestinian ministry of health, October 15, 2020).

[1] Note: Data lacking for name of neighborhood.



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