COVID-19 Updates September 2020 - Present

Welcome to the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council timeline on the spread of Covid 19 in Israel/Palestine.This resource will be updated regularly to provide a full picture of the unfolding pandemic and the medical, political and economic ramifications in real time.

Please note that Coronavirus cases are an underestimate given the lack of testing, resources, and asymptomatic carriers.  We recognize that in resource poor areas just as Gaza and the West Bank, these numbers are a major underrepresentation and fail to reflect the impact of the pandemic on these populations.

If you would like to receive this weekly timeline, a monthly Media Watch, and the occasional article/action alert, please sign up here.

As of September 26, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

Israel 229,374

West Bank 45,847 (includes 10,319 in East Jerusalem)

Gaza 2,725

As of September 19, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

Israel 183,602

West Bank 42,450  (includes in 9,760  East Jerusalem)

Gaza 2,313

for more numbers, please see archived page

There are also several organizations you may wish to donate to that are providing assistance to people in Palestine:

TIMELINE

September 20 – September 26, 2020

Further exploring gender disparities and COVID-19--focus on pregnancy. 

"Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 may be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth." CDC Statement, 9/11/2020

The data on risk of increased disease severity during pregnancy is compounded by increased maternal age, pre-existing conditions, and the same racial and ethnic disparities as in the general population.  

 

Limited Data on COVID and Pregnancy

 The CDC, Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report , 9/25/2020 confirms the very limited data available on COVID and pregnancy. Sample sizes are quite small.  CDC's COVID tracking between March 1 and August 22, 2020 looked at hospital discharge information on 2255 women who had been hospitalized with COVID-19, of that sample, about 25% were pregnant. The racial/Ethnic breakdown of this group was: 43% Latinx, 27% Black, 17% White, 13% Asian/Pacific Is.

 

According to the CDC, 9/22/2020, from Jan. 22-Sept. 22, 2020 --23,222 pregnant women in the US have tested positive for COVID-19, there have been 55 deaths due to COVID in these women. 

Race/ethnicity data was reported for 19,304 (83% of these women). (Note that this data only reflects # (%) of COVID cases reported among pregnant women. It does not compare data on COVID impacts per rates of total pregnancies for each racial/ethnic group). 

  • 8307 (43%) Latinx

  • 5451 (28%) White 

  • 4114  (21%) Black 

  • 535 (~3%) Asian

  • 897 (~5%) Mixed or other race/ethnicity

The CDC here reports that data on COVID rates among pregnant women should be regarded cautiously as there is variability in reporting pregnancy status as well as racial/ethnic data are not universally reported. 

 

Possibly to further clarify the data on racial/ethnic disparities:

 

The New York Times, 7/10/20, Data from Philadelphia showed that Black and Latinx women in that city had 5 times the risk of COVID exposure compared to White women. The same article goes on to say, "Mounting evidence shows that the pandemic’s outsize effects on Black and Latino people have been driven in large part by a long list of social factors that increase their risk of exposure to the virus."  In addition, it is to be noted that Black women, in general, have higher rates of poor pregnancy outcomes. 

 

Some significant findings about pregnancy and COVID-19 risks--

  • Data remains sparse on the full extent of COVID-19 implications during pregnancy

  • To date, there does not seem to be an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 simply based on pregnancy, however, the risk factors existing for BIPOC community members as a whole--more representation in essential jobs and front-line employment, less healthcare access, greater underlying conditions, more crowded housing and other social inequities are true for pregnant women. 

  • Pregnant women who contract COVID appear to be at higher risk of a complicated course of illness including higher rates of hospitalization, ICU admission and preterm birth, but more research is needed. 

 

Back to Palestine/Israel….

 

*** indicates paywall

 

The Virus, the Settler, and the Siege: Gaza in the Age of Corona

Dr. Ghassan Soleiman Abu-Sittah analyzes Israel's siege on Gaza in light of the emergence of Covid-19. As Abu-Sittah shows, the drive towards elimination of the virus and the increasingly restrictive enclosure of the indigenous population that is the essential dynamic of settler colonialism provides the best explanation of what Israel is doing in, and to, Gaza. He expands on this insight, laying bare the cold logic behind Israel's policies towards the Gaza Strip in particular, and the whole of Palestine in general, during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Institute for Palestine Studies

 

September 20 Gaza

The spread of the virus is forcing us to confront the dire reality in Gaza. We are all highly aware of the condition of the health system here. We all keep track of the number of available ventilators, the testing numbers and their results. We are also acutely aware of the dire economic situation that we’ve reached in this crisis and of the tenuous state of Gaza’s infrastructure.  We again recall the UN report that aimed to enlist the world’s assistance – the report that predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. That prediction has come true. 

Haaretz

 

September 20 West Bank
Israel is proceeding rapidly in defining the size of Palestinian bantustans at around 40 % of the West Bank. Crucially, this is being achieved not just by expanding settlements, but also by removing Palestinians, especially from Area C. UN data showed "the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank" during the period of March through August. As a monthly average, it constitutes the highest destruction rate in four years, with no respect for the risks of homelessness related to the pandemic. In addition to homes, Israeli forces have been targeting for destruction or confiscation "water, hygiene or sanitation assets, and structures used for agriculture," including dozens of structures "given to Palestinians as humanitarian aid". Palestinians were described in the Knesset committee meetings with strikingly dehumanizing language: Palestinian homes, agriculture and the basic infrastructure of life were called a "virus," "territorial terror" and a "cancer".
Middle East Eye

 

September 20 Occupied territories & Israel

Israeli pandemic czar Ronni Gamzu warned of a rise in severe cases and 600 deaths a month. Israel saw 58 dead in two days, and broke its record for ventilated patients. New guidelines will allow protests in groups of 20 during lockdown. West Bank active cases topped 11,000.

Haaretz ***

 

September 20 Israel

The Israeli coronavirus cabinet was expected on 9/21 to discuss the possibility of tightening the three-week nationwide lockdown given the rise in infections and mortality and the burden on hospitals.

Haaretz ***

 

In Israel’s first hospital to turn away coronavirus patients, there is a stark warning of collapse. Overcrowded coronavirus wards and lack of staff trained in treating severe cases edge this hospital in northern Israel closer to a tipping point, and its director stresses lockdown is not the cure

Haaretz

Thousands of Israelis resumed their weekly protest outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in central Jerusalem, despite a new nationwide lockdown order aimed at curbing a raging coronavirus outbreak. An exception allowing people to hold public demonstrations was included in the three-week lockdown, but many participants ignored social-distancing rules that order them to remain in small separated “capsules” of people. In the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak near Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv, over 100 activists took to the streets and burned garbage to protest restrictions on gatherings for public prayers.

AP News

 

September 21 Gaza
Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, a city of about 240,000 in southern Gaza, has only 65  beds, with just nine in the emergency department. Frequently overstretched, staff have no option than to tell people they must find medical assistance elsewhere. The hospital was directly targeted by Israel during its 2014 offensive against Gaza. COVID-19 in Gaza has compounded the problems. In 2015, the Palestinian Authority stated that it had allocated $24 million so that new medical facilities could be built in Rafah. This sum was supposed to come from aid promised by various governments. Earlier this year, the government of Qatar announced it would soon implement a $24 million project aimed at providing Rafah with a hospital. A site covering about 5 acres has been identified and the cornerstone has been laid. Construction work has, however, been postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Electronic Intifada

 

September 21 Israel

A second major Israeli hospital at full capacity began turning away coronavirus patients as new infections continued to rise, and the Defense Ministry announced it would set up a 200-bed field hospital. The two institutions are the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and the Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod. Shaare Tzedek has two coronavirus wards, which can treat 70 patients. It is currently in the process of building another, which would almost double its capacity to 130 patients – but it will only open after the Sukkot holidays, in the first half of October.

Haaretz ***

 

The Israeli coronavirus cabinet planned its next session to decide whether to make the new lockdown more stringent and further reduce economic activity. Decision-makers will be forced to confront worrisome statistics. On the one hand, there is the rise in the infection rate, with the number of people per million population testing positive exceeding that of the pandemic-stricken US. The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals has also increased. Many hospitals say they are becoming overwhelmed, and a number have begun sending coronavirus patients to other hospitals.

Haaretz ***

 

Experts warn that Israel’s failure to conduct Arabic outreach and include Arab professionals has made it harder to stem the spread of the virus in Palestinian towns. In mere weeks of the second wave gripping the country, Palestinian citizens went from constituting 10 % of patients who tested positive to the virus, to 30 % – and the curve is rising sharply. An umbrella organization representing Israel’s Palestinian citizens created its own information campaigns aimed at Arab society without government support or funding. Six months into the outbreak, there is still a lack of reliable and easily accessible information in Arabic. Palestinian medical experts are hardly being consulted, and their recommendations are not being implemented. Insufficient epidemiological investigations as well as disconnected and culturally inappropriate messaging have led to confusion and sometimes apathy. It was also unhelpful when coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzuu referred to the behavior of Palestinian citizens amid the pandemic as “terrorism.”

+972

 

September 22 Occupied territories

As the coronavirus continued to spread across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), local news this week was inundated with warnings of testing kit shortages in the West Bank and Gaza, the latter of which has seen a worrying spike in cases recently. The Palestinian Minister of Health  said that Israel “obstructed” the entry of 100,000 COVID-19 testing swabs that were destined for the West Bank in coordination with the UN. As a result, the MOH will only have enough swabs to last them for three days, after which time the West Bank would run out of the testing kits. Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson of the MOH in Gaza expressed fears over the lack of testing kits in Gaza, which he said could lead to “severe consequences” for health officials and their attempts to contain the virus in Gaza.  Sept 21, the World Health Organization supplied Gaza with 20,000 more swabs and laboratory extraction supplies — enough for 6,000 tests. But by the 22 nd, al-Qidra warned that supplies that had been donated by international organizations “will be finished in the coming hours, and the laboratory’s ability to conduct COVID-19 tests will be limited.” According to officials in Gaza, there are 120 ventilators in all of Gaza, some of which are already in use by patients with chronic illnesses. 
Mondoweiss

September 22 Israel
Amos Harel reflects on Netanyahu’s refusal to take responsibility for Israel’s pandemic crisis. With Israel’s vague, second nationwide lockdown underway, hospitals are reaching their breaking point, and so is the public. The margins of the health system are crumbling quickly. After a sharp increase in the number of identified coronavirus carriers in Israel beginning in early September, the numbers are already being translated into data that directly influence the quality of health care.
Haaretz ***

Israel's coronavirus cabinet met to discuss intensifying lockdown  restrictions amid a spike in infections and mortality and the increasing burden on hospitals. Protests and prayer services became central points of contention. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the "farce" of anti-government protests calling for his resignation must be curbed under the coronavirus restrictions.

Haaretz

 

Magen Dovid Adom (MDA) emergency services were being turned away from Israeli referral hospitals or blocked from entering by security guards. COVID-19 patients have been forced to wait in ambulances for hours due to the difficulty of finding a hospital willing to accept them.

Although a system had been devised to divide patients among hospitals in order to spread the burden more evenly, that system has been failing in the wake of the sharp increase in patients.

An MDA source said that the search for a hospital willing to accept a COVID-19 patient can put an ambulance team out of commission for four or five hours. The MDA has informed the hospitals and Health Ministry that they will no longer agree to spend hours searching for a hospital to accept their patients – and will take them to the hospital based on the Health Ministry’s instructions – even if the hospital refuses to accept the patient. The ambulances will leave the patients at the entrance to the special COVID-19 emergency rooms, where they will have to wait with the rest of the patients who arrived at the hospital on their own.

Haaretz

 

September 23 Gaza

In 2020 in Gaza — home to more than 2 million Palestinians, half of them children and the majority refugees living in densely-packed camps — the region is not just ‘unlivable,’ but positively lethal. Excellent review of current status of the pandemic in Gaza and the context in which it is unfolding.

Medium

 

September 23 West Bank
Since March, when the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have demolished or confiscated almost 400 Palestinian structures. So far this year, Israel has forcibly displaced about 700 Palestinians – most of them during the pandemic and half of them children. In August alone, Israel forced more than 200 Palestinians into homelessness. Those figures do not include the hundreds more whose livelihoods and ability to access services were also hampered by Israel’s demolition campaign. Palestinians often demolish their own homes to avoid being landed with the bill if Israel carries out the demolition. Demolitions were not restricted to Palestinian homes. Israeli occupation forces also destroyed or confiscated water, hygiene and agriculture structures – a further attack on Palestinians’ ability to respond to the pandemic.
Electronic Intifada

 

September 23 Israel
Some 100 doctors and scientific researchers appealed to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to bar the government from imposing the lockdown and related measures that went into effect at the end of last week, saying the state was basing its assumptions on erroneous data. The suit said the government didn’t have accurate information on morbidity rates or the number of seriously ill patients or those on ventilators. As a result, it claimed, the government is needlessly concerned about the threat of a steep rise in mortality rates and the overwhelming of the health care system.
Haaretz ***

 

September 24 Gaza

COVID-19 has hit Gaza hard in ways that are not always immediately obvious to the outside world. With Gaza’s authorities imposing new lockdowns and travel restrictions – adding to those imposed by Egypt and Israel – in response to a new and dangerous spike in virus cases since August, perhaps those who are hit the hardest are those waiting to go abroad for surgery. Many of those would-be patients were injured during the Great March of Return nonviolent demonstrations occurring from March 2018 until December 2019. The Israeli military responded with lethal force. Snipers fired live bullets, some to kill, many deliberately to maim. The result was hundreds of injuries that cannot be treated in Gaza where, after nearly a decade and a half of an Israeli-imposed blockade, the needed health sector infrastructure is simply not available. Many of these patients today still await treatment, and now also find themselves hostage to a global pandemic that has further restricted their chances of getting medical attention abroad. Their plight has resulted not just in physical damage, but psychological, professional and personal harm.

Electronic Intifada

 

September 24 West Bank & Israel

Israel has made hundreds more Palestinians homeless during the pandemic. Since March, when the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have demolished or confiscated almost 400 Palestinian structures. So far this year, Israel has forcibly displaced about 700 Palestinians – most of them during the pandemic and half of them children. In August alone, Israel forced more than 200 Palestinians into homelessness. That’s “more than in any other single month since January 2017,” according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA. Those figures do not include the hundreds more whose livelihoods and ability to access services were also hampered by Israel’s demolition campaign. Demolitions were not restricted to Palestinian homes. Israeli occupation forces also destroyed or confiscated water, hygiene and agriculture structures – a further attack on Palestinians’ ability to respond to the pandemic.

Electronic Intifada

 

September 24 Israel
Israel on Wednesday crossed another worrisome line in its battle against COVID-19, when it recorded its 200,000th confirmed case, only 32 days after it confirmed its 100,000th case, a clear indication that the virus is spreading rapidly. The spread is also starting to take its toll on medical personnel, as hundreds of people working in hospitals have contracted the virus. Few, however, have been infected at work; the overwhelming majority are being infected by their families or in the community. Over 1,500 doctors and nurses cannot work because they’re in quarantine.
Haaretz ***
Haaretz ***

 

Against the opposition of Israeli coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu and representatives of the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry, strict lockdown measures were scheduled to go into effect on September 25 although synagogues will remain open for Yom Kippur. Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of ulterior motives for leading Israel into a second full lockdown “without even setting objectives.” Netanyahu denied that his restrictions on protests were aimed at those demanding his resignation over his trial in three corruption cases and his government’s handling of the coronavirus. The Finance Ministry estimates that the cost of tightening the lockdown will be around $10 billion. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned in a report on Israel that the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo many of the country’s economic achievements of the last decade.

Haaretz

 

Haartz’s Tomer Appelbaum has won a Siena International Photo Award for his incredible picture of Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square during one of the first Black Flag protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Appelbaum, who was born in 1978 and has been a Haaretz staff member since 2007, won in a new category, Life Under COVID-19.

Haaretz

 

Israel now has one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, but the government’s response has gotten mired in political and cultural wars. In the midst of the Jewish High Holy Days, everyone except essential workers must stay home from work, except on Yom Kippur. The only gatherings allowed will be outdoors and include a maximum of 20 people — all of whom must have traveled no further than 1,000 meters from their homes. The battle pitted the generally pro-Netanyahu ultra-Orthodox against the sturdy contingent of anti-Netanyahu protesters. 

New York Times

 

September 25 Gaza

Mahmoud Moussa has been stranded for much of this year. Until recently, he has lived in Oman, where he worked as a hospital radiologist. In February this year, Moussa and his family took a trip to Gaza, where he was born. He had hoped to spend a month with his parents in Gaza but his plans have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.For most people in Gaza, the only exit point to the rest of the world is by traveling via the Rafah crossinginto Egypt. In response to the pandemic, that crossing has been mainly closed since 15 March. After realizing that leaving Gaza was impossible, Moussa, 40, contacted his employers in Oman, who gave him a deadline for returning to work. The deadline was extended several times. But after six months had elapsed, Moussa was told that his contract had ended. Not only has he been deprived of a steady income – he earned around $1,800 per month – Moussa’s residency permit for Oman has now been cancelled. Moussa, his Egyptian wife and their three children had lived in Oman for 12 years.

Electronic Intifada

 

In light of the pandemic, PCHR expresses concern at deterioration of women’s conditions in the Gaza Strip. With Sharia courts and women’s shelters closed, there has been an increased rate of gender based violence. The measures adopted to combat coronavirus spread have dramatically increased women’s family, social and economic burdens. PCHR calls for:

The governmental and non-governmental authorities to provide the necessary support and assistance to facilitate the work of shelters in the Gaza Strip and to ensure the safety of residents and staff.

The legal judiciary to realize the need for its operation under an emergency plan to ensure support and assistance to women and children in light of the possibility of this crisis continuing. This should include reactivating the judicial police’s role in implementing rulings issued by Sharia courts.

Palestine Centre for Human Rights

 

September 25 Israel

As the Covid-19 crisis worsens, Israelis are seeing the army as a savior – but the country is looking more and more like a military regime. In a public opinion survey published by Channel 12 in July, 57 % of respondents support the position of Minister of Defense Benny Gantz,  who claimed the coronavirus “operation must be transferred to the (Israeli army’s) Home Front Command and the Ministry of Defense.” Only 20 % opposed this notion.

Middle East Eye

 

September 26 West Bank

The third episode in a five-part video series on COVID-19 in Palestine explores life in the Jordan Valley, where Palestinians are fighting two battles -- one against the pandemic, and another against annexation. The Jordan Valley makes up nearly one-third of the entire West Bank and lies on the border with Jordan. It is one of the primary areas that Israel has slated for annexation – a policy that would see the Israeli government unilaterally apply sovereignty to thousands of acres of occupied Palestinian land.

Mondoweiss

 

September 26 Occupied territories & Israel

The week’s most recent update of coronavirus statistics and news from Haaretz. As intensified lockdown restrictions take effect, Israel currently has 61,031 active cases and 1,412 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 11,425 active cases and 291 deaths, and in Gaza 1,825 active cases and 17 deaths. Ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak are experiencing a sharp spike in hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Several groups from the anti-Netanyahu protest bloc sent out a message to followers explaining that they would hold Saturday's anti-Netanyahu protests in a different form than they have for the past 13 weeks.  Organizations condemned Netanyahu's attempts to limit the right to protest; the statement said they would quell the in-person protests, "so as not to give excuses to the failing Netanyahu government."

Haaretz

September 13 - September 19, 2020

 

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg through a focus on COVID disparities based on gender.

In terms of morbidity and mortality from COVID -19, males fare slightly worse than females, globally. 

Global Health 5050, an academic research center (along with several international public health organizations) is developing a large database of gender related information about COVID. 

Their global data on physical disease shows

For every 10 female cases of COVID-19, there are 11 males infected

For every 10 female hospitalizations, there are 13 hospitalizations of males

For every 10 female deaths, there are 14 male deaths. 

One issue noted by these researchers as well as many others is the lack of disaggregation of data by gender in many locations--unbelievable, huh? 

As Melinda Gates wrote in STAT News in late July, "Preliminary analysis in June from the World Health Organization and UN Women noted that less than half of reported cases included information on both sex and age. Data disaggregated by other demographic factors has been even harder to come by

In my (brief) review of literature in August and Sept., data disaggregation had not improved. And, even less is reported on COVID impact on the LGBTQ+ communities of the world. 

 

Biological impact of COVID-19 is one part of the story. Multiple articles address the greater socioeconomic impact that COVID is having on women.

"Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex." UN Secretary-General’s policy brief: The impact of COVID-19 on women

Early in the pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women's rights”. 

An August 20 article in The Lancet discusses many of the social factors that intensify the COVID burden for women. Among these are increased risk of domestic violence during periods of lockdown or as a result of financial stresses and job loss, increased burden of childcare when outside care and schools are not available, disproportionate economic impact for women already at the lower end of pay scales. In many places, with the closure of schools comes the increased risk of girls dropping out and never returning to educational settings. 

A JAMA Network Open article titled "COVID-19 and the Slide Backward for Women in Academic Medicine" discusses that as women in medicine are dealing with the burdens of juggling childcare and career, research and primary authorship on research articles by females has decreased significantly since the start of the pandemic. The growing disparity is greatest for women of color. "...For all of the strides academic medicine has made in recent years in improving gender equity, women now run the serious risk of sliding backward."

 

Melinda Gates in STAT News ponders the lack of international data on gender and COVID. Thus, there really is not a clear answer on how many women have died of the virus, how many have lost their jobs as a result of economic slowdowns or lack of childcare. Disaggregated data by sex is only provided by 64 nations. Thus, overall prevalence and impact of the pandemic on women is largely unknown. 

 

National Public Radio report titled "Where the Women Aren't: On Coronavirus Task Forces"  points out that of the White House Coronavirus Task Force consisting of 27 people, only two are women (are you surprised?). The article also highlights gaps in many countries in gathering information on gender in COVID-19 data. COVID-19's impact is also heaviest on women in the health professions due to their large numbers in these jobs. 

 

The UCLA School of Law Williams Institute provides important information about vulnerabilities that transgender adults may experience that adds to COVID risk. Though many of the risks are not specific to transgender individuals, vulnerabilities in terms of social isolation and discrimination add to illness risk. Barriers in accessing medical care, risk factors from underlying medical conditions, unemployment, lack of family support are among the issues many transgender adults have to deal with on top of the COVID pandemic. 

 

Back to Israel/Palestine….

 

***indicates paywall

 

Belatedly…September 10 article in the Lancet on Beirut

The blast left 190 dead and more than 6500 injured. The destruction from the explosion has been widespread, with about 40% of Beirut severely damaged, leaving around 300 000 residents with devastated dwellings. According to WHO reports, impacts on health infrastructure include three hospitals rendered non-functional, three substantially damaged, 500 hospital bed equivalents lost, and many primary care facilities damaged.  Essential food and medical supplies were also affected. The blast has generated a new humanitarian emergency in Lebanon. [note: While the article does not address the pandemic, this catastrophe can only worsen this challenging health crisis with the destruction of health facilities and the massive homelessness.]

The Lancet

 

September 13 Israel

Israel's school system will stay open until Rosh Hashanah eve, changing course from the initial decision to close schools earlier. A two-week nationwide lockdown was planned to start, as approved by the ministerial committee on Israel's coronavirus response last week, but the government has yet to approve the proposal, which will be voted on later. Israel’s increasing rate of coronavirus infection is inching the country’s hospitals closer to maximum capacity, destabilizing the health system. Israel's percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is one of the highest in the world, and the number of seriously ill patients is on the rise.

Ultra-Orthodox minister and Netanyahu ally Yaakov Litzman resigned from government in protest over an expected lockdown. Litzman is the chairman of the United Torah Judaism party and construction and housing minister. He had threatened to resign earlier if the coronavirus cabinet votes to impose a two-week lockdown ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Litzman opposes the lockdown because it would prevent major events during the holiday, and he wants to signal that he still maintains control over the Gur Hasidic sect.

Haaretz

 

According to Amos Harel, the apparent decision to impose a general lockdown in the country for a few weeks around Rosh Hashanah reflects a serious management and leadership failure of the government and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Israel came out of the first wave of the coronavirus with quite a reasonable outcome in terms of health, but having paid a high social and economic price due to the lockdown. Then it quickly declared victory – “go out and celebrate,” the prime minister urged – without strict planning and enforcement when it came to an exit strategy. Now, with the number of confirmed new virus cases between 3,000 and 4,000 a day, it is ahead of most Western countries in leaping toward a second nationwide lockdown, which might not be its last.

Haaretz ***

 

The Israeli government agreed to impose a three-week nationwide lockdown that would go into effect on the eve of Rosh Hashana. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press briefing that warnings by health officials led to the government’s decision, which restricts Israelis to a 500-meter (about 0.3 miles) radius of their residence, but allowed to commute to work. Israel's school system will stay open until Rosh Hashanah eve, changing course from the initial decision to close schools sooner.

Haaretz

BBC

 

Three-week lockdown began on 9/18 coronavirus infection rages. With rising infection rates, Israeli hospitals struggled to accept the amount of patients coming in. Crowds will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors. Public worship on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur must be in groups of up to 25 people, or up to 10 in communities with high infection rates. In addition, there must be four square meters of floor space for each worshiper. The ultra-Orthodox are extremely unhappy.

Haaretz

 

Coronavirus restrictions may quash anti-Netanyahu demonstrations. Head of health services says protesters would be limited to within 500 meters of their homes with ‘no exception for protests,' while public security minister vows 'heavy-handed' lockdown enforcement.

Haaretz

 

Record coronavirus infections endanger Israeli health system. The coronavirus information center says hospitals are reaching their saturation point, warning specifically of lengthy prayers as High Holy Days near. The coronavirus is rapidly spreading in Israel, adding that the rate of infection during the past two weeks is the highest recorded since the outbreak began. People under 39 comprise the majority of infections.

Haaretz

 

The Israel Police are making preparations to enforce the lockdown policy, even as voices from several groups have announced they will not follow restrictions. Anti-Netanyahu protest leaders say they won’t stop demonstrating. The police are following these calls on social media, among other things – although they have not identified any mass movement, but only a number of individual calls.

Haaretz ***

 

September 14 Israel
The first overburdened Israeli hospital said it would turn away coronavirus patients. The director of Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Prof. Masad Barhoum, announced that he had ordered it to stop accepting any more coronavirus patients because of overcrowding in the hospital’s coronavirus wards and intensive care units, as well as the high number of patients in serious condition and on ventilators.After the government approved a three-week lockdown, Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry released a national plan, allowing dozens of worshippers to pray together indoors during the upcoming Jewish holidays. The plan also permits separate pods of up to 20 people to worship together outdoors. 
Haaretz

 

Israel will enter a three-week nationwide lockdown, starting 9/18, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus after a second-wave surge in new cases. During the lockdown, Israelis will have to stay within 500 metres of their homes but can travel to workplaces that will be allowed to operate on a limited basis. Schools and shopping malls will be closed but supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open. Israel's finance ministry said the lockdown will cost the economy, which has slipped into a recession in the wake of the pandemic, an estimated 6.5bn shekels ($1.88bn).
Aljazeera

 

September 14 International

A statement submitted to the UN on behalf of World Vision International Civil Rights Connect, Defence for Children International, Plan International Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, and Terre des Hommes addresses the need to include children and young people, in particular girls, in pandemic-related discussions that affect their lives. The statement calls on the UN and member states to apply a child-rights’based approach and:

  • to seize the opportunity to ensure increased and sustained engagement of children and young people in discussions so that their perspectives are heard, their opinions and their needs are met, at the national, regional and international levels;

  • to take children’s best interest into account in all responses to COVID-19 by ensuring that international human rights law and standards are at the center of all responses and that public measures limiting access to education, freedom of movement or impacting economic activity are necessary, proportional and temporary.  

  • to strengthen social protection measures that reach the most affected families and children, and to build social safety nets that will cushion the shock from future pandemics.

Defence for Children

 

September 15 Gaza

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that Gaza's hospitals can handle only 350 COVID-19 patients. But with more than 1,200 cases already, the virus will likely sicken thousands of people. And with fewer than 100 ICU beds and even fewer ventilators, COVID-19 could push Gaza's healthcare system over the brink. To make matters worse, the pandemic comes against the backdrop of renewed violence and access restrictions. 
There is a real risk that Gaza cannot withstand the economic shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80 % of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid to survive, and the long-term socioeconomic repercussions of a months-long lockdown could be devastating. Amid lockdowns and a blockade, Gazans now face a "quarantine within a quarantine". At the very least, the terms of the blockade need to be revised to help the population cope with the pandemic and the area's long-term humanitarian crisis. Israel should commit to ensuring that the blockade is not used as a form of collective punishment against the Palestinians living in Gaza and international donors need to step up to this humanitarian challenge.
Aljazeera

September 16 Gaza

Since August 24 and the announcement of community spread in Gaza, Gazans have also been living under internal lockdown. Most businesses and institutions are shut, there is no travel between districts and some neighborhoods are quarantined.   In mid-August, when Israel again closed access to the sea for two weeks, it forced thousands back to shore who depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Without fishing, there is nothing to eat.  The power station was shut down because Israel prevented the shipment of fuel into Gaza; it is now open with 8 hours of electricity per day. We again recall the UN report  predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. That prediction has come true. 

Haaretz

 

September 16 Occupied territories & Israel

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin apologized for leadership failure as cases break record.  Gov't approved regulations for three-week lockdown.  Al-Aqsa Mosque closes for three weeks. Israel currently has 46,081 active cases; 1,165 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 10,433 active cases and 246 deaths, and in Gaza 1,688 active cases and 15 deaths.  The Justice Ministry, the Health Ministry and the police are drafting an outline for limiting attendance at protests during the lockdown, particularly for the weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence. The coronavirus infection rate among Arab women in Israel during the second wave of the coronavirus crisis is much higher than that of men in the community, and has reached 60 % – and in certain areas is as high as 85 %, related to weddings.

Haaretz

 

September 16 Israel

An additional 51 communities, with 2.5 million inhabitants, were coded orange, just one step down from red in the Health Ministry’s traffic-light-themed plan. A week after restrictions were imposed on 40 neighborhoods and communities with high coronavirus infection rates, Israel is on its way to being fully “red.” 83 locales with a total of 4 million residents – nearly half the country’s population – merited this classification, together with the harshest restrictions that it brings.

Haaretz ***

 

September 17 West Bank

This is the third episode in a five-part series produced by Mondoweiss on COVID-19 in Palestine. This episode visits the Jordan Valley, the large area of Palestinian territory on the border between Jordan and the occupied West Bank, which is one of the primary areas Israel has slated for annexation and is home to many Bedouins. You can view the entire series here – mondoweiss.net/covid19series.

“The coronavirus pandemic is everywhere in the world but in the Palestinian areas, specifically in the Jordan Valley we have two pandemics: the pandemic of the [Israeli] occupation and then the coronavirus. In this area, the occupation is even worse for us than the coronavirus pandemic. The occupation has taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to take over more land in the Jordan Valley,” During the time of the coronavirus, Israel has confiscated over 18,000 dunams of Palestinian-owned land in the northern Jordan Valley, and placed it under the control of the state. On top of facing daily aggression from the Israeli military, Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley are living without access to basic necessities like electricity, running water and access to healthcare.

Mondoweiss

 

September 17 Israel

The new Israeli lockdown, restricting Israelis from traveling more than 1,000 meters from their homes except for essential purposes, is currently due to last until Sunday, October 11, a day after Simhat Torah. Businesses that serve customers in-person will be closed, but retailers selling essentials such as food and medicine will remain open. The cabinet will convene two weeks into the lockdown for a situation assessment. The government approved a 500 shekel (about $145) fine for anyone who strays beyond their 1,000 meters for unapproved reasons.  

Haaretz

 

September 18 Israel

As the pandemic in the country worsens, officials warn that new restrictions might not be enough to cut infection rates significantly. Israel will become one of the few places in the world to go into a second lockdown, which will take effect on the eve of Rosh Hashana. The government has issued a list of restrictions — along with a plethora of exemptions that many criticize as a formula for confusion and noncompliance. The country has had more than 300 confirmed new cases per 100,000 people over the last week, quadruple that of the US. Many secular Israelis have the deep-set and well-argued feeling that this lockdown is a “lockdown for the secular.”

New York Times

 

September 19 Belarus

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, thousands of Hasidic Jews found themselves sitting in Belarus. Their destination was Uman, a small town in Ukraine, but they were stopped at the Ukrainian border. Tens of thousands of Hasids from the Bratslav sect annually gather for Rosh Hashanah at the grave of their deceased spiritual guide, Rabbi Nachman. A global lobbying campaign began months ago to persuade the relevant authorities to approve their entry to Uman this year under restricted arrangements as per coronavirus requirements. Tremendous pressure was applied to Orthodox members of Israel’s government to stand up to the health professionals, who were inclined to withhold permission for a mass exodus for fear of contagion. This generated a political crisis when the Hasids discovered that Israel was badgering the Ukrainians to forbid entry to the pilgrims. The Israeli in charge of this battle wrote to the president of Ukraine, warning of the potential spread of COVID-19 to follow.

Middle East Eye

September 6 – September 12, 2020

 

***Indicates articles with pay wall.

 

Belatedly… Interviews with Shatha Odeh of the Palestinian Health Work Committees on the issues around Covid19 and its response in Palestine. Shatha Odeh is also the Regional Representative of PHM- Middle East and North Africa region. 
1) Israeli restrictions, policies hinder Palestinians' fight against pandemic:
In the first part of an interview on  COVID-19 and the health system in Palestine, Shatha Odeh of the Palestinian Health Work Committees talks about the difficulties faced by the people and health care professionals due to the rules and restrictions imposed by Israeli occupation. She describes the situation on the ground, as well as the nature of the challenges in the West Bank and Gaza.  
Click Here for Interview recording
2) Health workers face off against host of obstacles in Palestine:
In the second part of an interview on COVID-19 and the health system in Palestine, Shatha Odeh of the Palestinian Health Work Committees talks about the state of health infrastructure in Palestine, the challenges COVID-19 has brought and the challenges faced by healthcare professionals.
Click Here for Interview recording  

 

September 6 Gaza & Israel

Netanyahu announced closure on 40 “red cities,” synagogues will remain open during the High Holidays even if lockdown is imposed, ultra-Orthodox communities oppose being singled out for high levels of infection and threatened to cease cooperating with the government, cases in Israel rose to 130,157. Public medical workers ended their strike. Shin Bet tracking of patients was been extended for 10 more days. The Federation of Local Authorities has established a coronavirus command center specific to Arab and Druze municipalities. Gaza renewed lockdown as infection spread.

Haaretz

 

September 6 Israel

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu was expected to ask the coronavirus cabinet on Sunday 9/6 to approve a seven-day lockdown on 8 to 10 towns to start on 9/7.  Most of the towns are ultra-Orthodox or Arab Israeli. Bnei Brak, Elad, Umm al-Fahm and Kfar Qasem are expected to be on Gamzu’s list. Sources in both ultra-Orthodox and Arab cities have said they will challenge a lockdown.

Haaretz ***

 

Dozens of Israeli physicians and scientists have signed an open letter calling on the cabinet not to impose a new countrywide lockdown, despite a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. The signatories recommend focusing on steps to protect the groups that are most vulnerable to infection – above all older adults – and to avoid broader, more collective measures. They called for adopting, with certain adjustments, the Swedish model for handling the pandemic.

Haaretz ***

 

September 7 Gaza
Gaza City was plunged into darkness after Israel banned fuel deliveries. Following two weeks of electricity cuts, Israel lifted the ban in early September. The cuts took place against the backdrop of what was widely known as an “escalation” between Israel and Palestinian resistance fighters. According to the Gaza health ministry, the power cuts threatened the lives of newborn babies. Incubators and some other hospital equipment require an uninterrupted supply of electricity yet that could not be guaranteed after the power station closed. Generators and solar panels were not sufficiently reliable, the ministry stated. Fears were also voiced for patients needing intensive care, emergency surgery or dialysis, as well as for women who required C-sections while giving birth. The Gaza authorities introduced a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, people had to stay inside for long periods – without electricity.
Electronic Intifada

 

September 7 Israel

The offensive cynicism with which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been zigzagging through the coronavirus crisis reached a nadir. At the last minute, he refused to approve the plan put forward by coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu to impose a lockdown and tougher restrictions on "red cities," in which the rate of infection is high. Instead, the premier suggested imposing night curfews and closing schools in 40 cities. Only a small number of those are ultra-Orthodox communities. Seeking the support of the Haredi parties as his corruption trial is set to reopen in December, PM sacrificed the man he appointed to manage the health crisis, crushing what was left of the public’s trust.

Haaretz ***

 

The Health Ministry presented figures on Monday revealing that 172 pupils and 62 school staffers have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the school year began on September 1. Currently 4,360 pupils and 720 school staff are currently in isolation, but the Health Ministry refused to cancel the capsule system in classes. Ministry representatives presented the data at a Knesset Education Committee session, while the Education Ministry remains unwilling to release its data on the number of infections as its monitoring of cases in the schools is not yet complete.

Haaretz ***

 

By folding to ultra-Orthodox, Netanyahu paves way for full lockdown on high holy days. After nixing a lockdown on coronavirus hot spots, experts say castrated plan seems unlikely to achieve anything other than giving the ultra-Orthodox a false sense of equality.

Netanyahu used Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman’s call to the public not to obey the government’s zigzagging orders to accuse the entire opposition of sowing anarchy and of responsibility for the public’s lack of discipline. He utterly denied having flagrantly capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox when, at the last minute, he canceled the coronavirus chief’s plan to put 10 cities under lockdown (though civil servants say the media’s descriptions were completely accurate). He even repeated the accusations by his son Yair, the crown prince, on Twitter that the anti-Netanyahu protests are a hotbed of infection whose impact is being concealed by an anonymous gang.

Haaretz

 

September 8 Gaza

The United Nations has launched a special temporary service to arrange for patients from the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment in Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, the organization’s Middle East envoy announced. This is the first time the United Nations has gotten involved in the issue. It did so because many Gazans have not been able to arrange urgent treatments in the months since the Palestinian Authority ceased all cooperation with Israel. The PA had previously served as the liaison between patients and the Israeli authorities.

Haaretz ***

 

El-Rabii is the first Gaza doctor diagnosed with COVID-19 and is among dozens of health-care workers infected during the local outbreak, which was detected late last month. The outbreak has been especially hard for Gaza’s medical workers. For more than a decade, they have been on the front lines treating injuries during conflicts with Israel. They have worked in an ailing health system gutted by the blockade and intra-Palestinian political feuding that left doctors, nurses and other medical workers with only partial salaries. Now, the virus is straining medical workers physically, mentally and financially.

New York Times

 

Ran Goldstein, director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, said that the UN’s temporary mechanism for transferring patients would not meet the needs of patients in Gaza. “Every day, hundreds of patients do not leave for medical treatment because they didn’t get a permit, or even a reply to the requests they submitted, and have consequently missed vital treatments,” he told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz. “Every patient should be allowed to leave Gaza for treatment with no delays and no bureaucratic hurdles,” Goldstein added. Yet Palestinians’ basic rights, such as the right to access medical treatment, continue to be treated as subject to negotiation rather than protection, by UN officials like Nickolay Mladenov, the secretary-general’s Middle East peace envoy. This approach has only contributed to the longevity of the blockade, for which Israel has paid little consequence. When Palestinians do resist, they are condemned by the same officials who meanwhile fail to call for an immediate end to the suffocating siege.

Electronic Intifada

 

On 3 September 2020, in light of Israel’s tightening of the restrictions on Gaza and the COVID-19 outbreak, Al-Haq sent an Urgent Appeal to UN Special Procedures, urging them to fulfil Palestinian rights, which are systematically violated by Israel’s unlawful closure of Gaza, and urging them to call upon third States to take effective steps to ensure international accountability and justice. Critically, Al-Haq stressed that in the absence of international justice and accountability, Israel will continue to ignore its legal obligations as Occupying Power, so long as it benefits from an unlawfully created culture of impunity. 

Al Haq

 

September 8 Occupied territories

The casual manner in which people are dealing with the virus, however, is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the reality of COVID-19 in Palestine. Within the past 24 hours alone, the MOH announced 10 COVID-19 related deaths and 717 new cases of the virus. In Gaza, where the first cases of local transmission were detected two weeks ago, the number of total cases has surpassed 1,200. 

Mondoweiss

 

September 8 Occupied territories & Israel

Socioeconomic conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory are growing more dire, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) warned on Tuesday, as the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic compounds an already bleak economic landscape. "Even before the economic shock due to the coronavirus disease [COVID-19] pandemic, the [Palestinian] economy was expected to slip into recession in 2020 and 2021," UNCTAD wrote in its latest report (PDF) on assistance to the Palestinian people. That outlook darkened further, said UNCTAD, as a result of several factors: annexation of large areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the economic damage wrought by measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, faltering aid flows as donors are squeezed financially by the pandemic, and an onerous customs union with Israel that leads to hundreds of millions of dollars of Palestinian tax revenue leaking to Israel's treasury.
Aljazeera

September 8 Israel
1,019 empty plastic chairs were set up in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, one for each of the Israeli victims of the coronavirus since the pandemic began this spring, by a grassroots organization called Standing Together. Each bore a sign with the name of a person who has died. A single rose was placed on each chair. The demonstration came as political tensions stymie Israel’s efforts to get the spread of the disease under control. The country passed the 1,000-death threshold this weekend, and the world’s highest infection rate means more deaths are sure to come.

Haaretz

 

Although Israel’s borders have been largely closed to non-citizens since the coronavirus outbreak, volunteers from a Christian evangelical organization have obtained special government permission to enter the country in order to help with the grape harvest on illegal West Bank settlements. Under regulations in force for the past six months, only Israeli citizens are allowed to enter the country. Exceptions include foreign spouses and children of Israeli nationals, immigrants coming under the Law of Return, "lone soldiers" (Israeli army volunteers from the Jewish Diaspora), and relatives invited to participate in Jewish life cycle ceremonies. Last month, the Interior Ministry announced that 12,000 yeshiva students and another 5,000 foreign exchange students and participants in Masa educational and social programs, aimed at young Jewish adults, would also be allowed into the country.

Haaretz

 

As he moved to slow the pandemic, Dr. Ronni Gamzu kept butting heads with ultra-Orthodox leaders. Then Israel’s top virus fighter was suddenly undercut. Dr. Gamzu won cabinet approval for a traffic light-themed plan to impose strict lockdowns on “red” cities with the worst outbreaks, while easing restrictions in “green” ones where the virus was finding fewer victims. The goal was to avoid, or at least delay, another economically strangling nationwide lockdown. Ultra-Orthodox leaders who felt that their community was being stigmatized, revolted against the traffic light plan. This time, however, they did not bother to attack Dr. Gamzu, instead directing their ire at his most important backer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The upshot for Israel is a bleak prospect: The pandemic has mushroomed, with Israel’s number of new cases near the worst in the world on a per-capita basis. Yet the odds of stopping its march seem slim as the Jewish High Holy Days approach. A growing chorus of frustrated Israelis across the political spectrum accuse Mr. Netanyahu of working harder at holding onto power than on bringing infection rates down. 

New York Times

 

September 9 Israel

A nightly curfew on 40 towns and neighborhoods across Israel began Tuesday, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus in hardest hit localities. The curfew, which will last until September 15, takes effect daily from 7 P.M. until 5 A.M. During curfews, residents will be able to walk up to 500 meters (0.3 miles) from their homes, and all businesses that are not essential will be closed.

Haaretz ***

 

Israel's coronavirus cabinet approved Thursday night a two-week nationwide lockdown beginning on September 18, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The decision is contingent on the approval of the wider cabinet.

Haaretz ***

 

With the start of the battle against the spread of coronavirus, Adalah moved to emergency footing to monitor for potential human rights violations and to take legal action when necessary in order to defend the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the OPT during this crisis. This page brings together all the documentation and resources related to the work defending human rights during this global pandemic, including breaking updates, press releases, and special analysis and briefing papers. 

Adalah

 

September 10 Occupied territories and Israel

The Health ministry confirmed seven more deaths and 1,000 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the highest single-day jump since the outbreak began. The death toll in Palestine rose to 224, while total infections reached 37,214  including 25,483 recoveries. The ministry said the rate of recovery from the coronavirus was 68.5 percent, while the rate of active infections reached 30.9 percent and the death rate was 0.6 percent of all infections. The new coronavirus cases were distributed as follows: Hebron Governorate (101), Nablus Governorate (82), Bethlehem Governorate (51), Qalqilya Governorate (35), Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate (112), Jenin (14), Jericho and al-Aghwar (30), Tubas (28), Tulkarm (18), Salfit (22), the Gaza Strip (195), the suburbs of Jerusalem (57) and the city of occupied East Jerusalem (255).
Aljazeera

September 11 Gaza

Coronavirus cases in Gaza topped 1,500. The Israeli coronavirus cabinet approved a two-week lockdown, subject to government approval. The Israeli pandemic czar said hospitals were near full capacity as almost 1,000 patients were hospitalized.

Haaretz ***

 

The first cases of community transmission in Gaza began when four tested positive in a refugee camp on August 24, as of 9/8, it reached 182 new cases in single day. To put it more starkly, in the last week the total number of COVID-19 cases in Gaza have tripled, reaching 1,551 yesterday. The International Crisis Group warned that once Gaza reaches 280 new infections daily, “the number of people requiring treatment will exceed the capacity of local hospitals.” In the last week the total number of COVID-19 cases in Gaza have tripled, reaching 1,551 on 9/10.

Mondoweiss

 

September 12 Occupied territories & Israel

Hospitalizations in Israel top 1,000 on eve of lockdown vote. Coronavirus cabinet approves two-week lockdown, subject to government approval.  Almost a million have been ordered to self-isolate since July 1. Infection rates are down amongst Palestinian population and up amongst the Haredim. Gaza cases top 1,500. Israel currently has 37,926 active cases; 1,101 people have died.  In the West Bank, there are 9,845 active cases, in Gaza 1,549. In the West Bank and Gaza, 240 people have died. 

Haaretz

August 30 – September 5, 2020

 

COVID-19 shines a light on health dIsparities in the US healthcare system. How medical bias against black people is shaping Covid-19 treatment and care (Vox, 6/2/20202) gives a brief history with many examples of bias and racist decisions within the US healthcare system. Examples include lack of full informed consent, unethical experimentation, unequal health resources in Black communities, and stereotyping assumptions about African American patients. According to the article's author, Marya T. Mtshali, PhD, this historical perspective continues playing out in the inequities of COVID-19 infection as well as contributing to the understandable skepticism that many Black Americans have to a COVID vaccine that is developed in a rapid manner with shortcuts taken that streamline rigorous testing. 


 

Black health matters: 

 To Be Safe Means To Be Healthy is an interview with Prof. Hedwig Lee from Washington University. The interview explores an understanding of COVID disparities as merely another example of a system that suffers from systemic racism in so many domains. 

"Issues of structural racism impact policing just in the same way that they impact people’s disproportionate risk to health hazards... So, there’s lots of discussions in the news around removing monuments that represent racial violence, removing names of leaders that adorn many universities, entryways, etc., and I think it’s because it’s clear, at least for many people, that if we did a better job at understanding legacies of racial violence and how those legacies are impacting present-day outcomes, we could understand that we have systems of racial hierarchy or racism (however you want to describe it) that are impacting communities of color across a variety of domains. " 
 

[***indicates paywall]

 

Back to Palestine/Israel….

 

August 30 Gaza

A spokesman for the Gaza Interior Ministry said on Saturday, August 29, that the lockdown would be extended for another 48 hours after the number of infected people rose to 182. Authorities in the Gaza Strip are fearful of losing control of the coronavirus pandemic, according to senior officials in Hamas and other Palestinian factions, who warned over the weekend that the crisis is raising the chances of an escalation with Israel. This past weekend was to have been critical for Gaza with regard to stabilizing the security situation with Israel and dealing with a coronavirus outbreak, the officials said.

Haaretz ***

August 30 Israel

·Israeli cabinet approves coronavirus czar's 'traffic light' plan to curb the pandemic. It imposes restrictions on cities according to risk levels based on the local infection rate: green, yellow, orange and red. Different color-coded areas would be subject to different restrictions, the most severe of which would be a local lockdown.  11 of the 13 experts recommended opening high schools in cities not designated as red, and Dr. Alrai reported that they are about to begin large-scale testing for the virus for education system employees (up to 3,000 a day). Experts also stated that there is no point in directives or in tightening them when they are not implemented and when public representatives don't join a sustained effort to foster adherence to the directives, each in his community.

Haaretz

 

August 31 Gaza

  • Some 69 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, announced the Gaza Health Ministry on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the Strip to 356 since the beginning of the pandemic. Some 243 cases have been reported outside of quarantine centers.

Jerusalem Post

 

August 31 Occupied territories & Israel

  • Palestinian prisoners testing positive for COVID-19 or exposed to the virus have been transferred to prisons inside Israel, although the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids Israel from transferring detainees from occupied territory into its own territory. To enable the Palestinian health systems to manage the outbreak, Israel must lift its closure of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council urged the secretary-general of the United Nations, the contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the international community to pressure Israel to release at-risk detainees.

Electronic Intifada

 

  • As the Gaza Strip goes into renewed coronavirus lockdown, five Israel-based human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to demand the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing to fuel and other goods. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the number of infected people has risen to 182. “It is precisely during this period of the spread of the coronavirus in which there are clear signs in the Gaza Strip of a deepening of the severe economic and humanitarian crisis,” reads the petition written by Gisha, Adalah, HaMoked, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. The groups further criticized the Israeli government for choosing to take “additional steps aimed at directly harming the civilian population while knowing full well the significance of their decision and the ramifications on the residents of Gaza.”
    +972

 

August 31 Israel

·Cabinet decides not to reopen schools in coronavirus hot spots. The decision comes hours ahead of beginning of new school year.  Active cases in Israel top 20,000. Negotiations between the Finance Ministry and medical lab workers made no progress at staving off a strike over poor working conditions.​

 

·Israeli school year begins for over 2 million students as coronavirus rages. The Israel Teachers Union has yet come to an agreement with the government on arrangements for teachers at high risk, and the threat of a strike continues to loom in the background. Requirements including mask wearing and distance learning vary from grade to grade.​

 

·As infection rate runs high, Israel takes no small gamble to open schools. The cabinet is circumventing the coronavirus czar's recommendations, but should he resign it could shatter once and for all the last shreds of public support for the government’s policy. The government’s decision to open the school year as planned, at the height of a wave of infection in which close to 2,000 new virus carriers are being confirmed daily, is no small gamble. No other Western country is reopening schools amid this level of infection, but it may be a necessary gamble, given the dire situation of the Israeli economy. It’s clear that unless children return to school, many parents won’t be able to go to work. Nonetheless, the coronavirus cabinet’s insistence on opening schools without any restrictions, including in “red” cities where infection rates are the highest, is irresponsible. Political maneuverings are at play.​

 

September 1 Gaza

  • Exclusive update from Dr. Abu Jamei, executive director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Foundation. 290 COVID positive cases including two cases in critical condition and another 20 in moderate to severe condition is the main news in Gaza this evening. The troublesome fact is that those 290 cases are spread all over the Gaza Strip. 1 Million people, half of them are children are expected to stay in their crowded homes with only 4 hours of electricity per day until further notice! That was the case until an announcement was made yesterday evening. The Qatari mediator managed to make a (deal) or agreement between Israel and the local authorities to stop the balloons in exchange of easing the blockade. Israel started this morning allowing fuel to reach Gaza Strip’s only power plant, which means returning to 8 hours shifts of electricity. Fishermen are allowed back into the sea and construction material can pass through! It was announced that more projects will begin operating in Gaza and more poor families are going to be supported.
    Gaza Community Mental Health Program
    Gaza Mental Health Foundation

 

September 1 West Bank

  • For four months Neta Golan's husband Nizar was marooned in Egypt while she and her three daughters were home in Nablus in the West Bank.  When the pandemic broke out, Jordan closed its borders, denying him his only entry to home.  Some Palestinians are still stranded abroad, waiting for clearance from the Israeli and Jordanian governments. Spouses of West Bank Palestinians who asked Israel for permission to come home through the airport outside of Tel Aviv were refused; the Israeli authorities do not consider being a spouse separated from their family a humanitarian case that would warrant an exemption. The pandemic has put activism on hold, including the Gaza 2020 break the siege project. 

 

September 1 Occupied territories

  • As of June 30, 2020, a total of 2443 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in the occupied Palestinian territory, 72 of which have been in Gaza. The Palestinian Ministries of Health in both Gaza and Ramallah have acknowledged that their capacity to contain the spread of COVID-19 is limited by ongoing and pre-existing shortages in health-care equipment, including medications and disposable equipment. Public health measures have erred on the side of caution and largely contributed to a very low infection rate during the first 3 months of the crisis; for example, Gaza has recommended that individuals returning from outside Gaza through the Rafah or Erez crossing remain in quarantine for 21 days, instead of 14 days.

The Lancet

 

September 1 Israel

  • Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who was unsuccessful in his bid to have the school year open on Tuesday throughout the country, including so-called "red zones" with the highest incidence of the coronavirus, was recorded on Wednesday as calling the concept of red zones a fiction. Gallant attacked the coronavirus cabinet's decision to keep the schools closed in those areas, calling it "fundamentally mistaken” and saying that the virus does not follow municipal boundaries and the situation should be evaluated on a school-by school basis. Some 500 students tested positive for the coronavirus since the reopening of the school year in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas less than two weeks ago. 
    Negotiations between the Finance Ministry and medical lab workers made no progress at staving off a strike over poor working conditions. Israeli public health lab staffers will "return to the negotiating table" after "the personal request of the Health Ministry Director General, Prof. Hezi Levi.  Levi pledged that the Health Ministry would mediate and assist more actively and significantly in negotiations" with the Finance Ministry, in order to bring about a change in "their attitude towards us laboratory workers, according to Esther Admon, chair of the Laboratory Workers Union, on Monday. 

Haaretz

 

September 2 Gaza

  • In her coronavirus diary, Palestinian activist Aya Al Ghazzawi shares a day in the life of Gaza during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The coronavirus is just another siege, a quarantine inside a quarantine.”

Mondoweiss

 

  • The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), and the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) urged the international community to intervene and support the civilian population in the Gaza Strip as it faces a potential humanitarian catastrophe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    “We are encouraged by the remarkable efforts exerted by the Ministry of Health and all other governmental sectors to contain the viral outbreak despite the state of the under-resourced health sector, and call on all residents of Gaza to comply with the safety and preventive measures put in place. We also call on the competent authorities to mobilize support for those who have lost their jobs due to the lockdown.
    We welcome the Palestinian Authority’s plans to send a delegation to the Gaza Strip and highly appreciate the medical aid it has been providing. In this regard, we strongly urge the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its obligations towards the population in Gaza, including by putting an end to the “financial” retirement of Gaza’s public servants.
    We similarly call on the concerned agencies, NGOs and international bodies to mobilize support for residents of the Gaza Strip, to urgently ramp up supplies of medical equipment and ventilators, and to exert pressure on Israel, the occupying power, to immediately and unconditionally lift the blockade and closure.”
    Al Haq

 

September 2 West Bank

  • As COVID-19 continues to spread in the West Bank, communities in Area C are disproportionately impacted by both the coronavirus and the occupation. This can be seen in al-Walaja, located in Area C, where the Palestinian Authority has been prevented from helping with containment efforts. The Israeli government, legally responsible for civilian affairs and development in Area C, has provided nothing for its Palestinian subjects in the way of coronavirus testing, treatment, or containment efforts.This is the second episode in a five-part series produced by Mondoweiss on COVID-19 in Palestine. The series explores how the virus is affecting the social, economic, and political situation in the occupied territory, where Palestinians are living under both a global pandemic, and the Israeli occupation. You can view the entire series here – mondoweiss.net/covid19series.
    Mondoweiss

September 2 West Bank & Israel

  • Ultra-Orthodox girls’ schools in the West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit opened Tuesday, flouting government orders for schools in communities with high rates of coronavirus infections to remain closed. The coronavirus cabinet issued a directive early Tuesday morning under which schools in “red cities” would not reopen September 1, but officials in Betar Ilit said the Education Ministry did not inform the town.

Haaretz

 

September 2 Occupied territories & Israel

  • On 20 August 2020, Addameer and Al-Haq sent a written submission to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council ahead of its 45th regular session, calling on the Council to intervene to guarantee the rights to life and health, and safety of Palestinian prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the submission, the organizations highlighted Israel’s systematic policy of medical negligence against Palestinians in Israeli detention centers, including the Israeli Supreme Court’s recent decision which ruled that Palestinian prisoners and detainees have no right to social distancing. As of 29 August 2020, 13 Palestinian prisoners and detainees tested positive for COVID-19, either while detained or shortly after their release, including a fifteen-year-old child and a cancer patient. The submission stressed the urgent need for justice and accountability, making the following calls to Member States of the UN Human Rights Council: 

    • Demand Israel, the Occupying Power, release all Palestinian political prisoners to ensure their safety from an uncontrolled spread of the pandemic, particularly those who are more susceptible to the disease and those who are illegally held under administrative detention; 

    • Demand Israel ensure the protection of all prisoners without discrimination by adopting the WHO’s recent guidance on preventing a COVID-19 outbreak in prisons, and take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic in Israeli prisons; and

    • Recognize Israel’s use of arbitrary detention and its systematic policy of medical negligence against Palestinian detainees as a core component of Israel’s institutionalised and systemic racial discrimination and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole.
      Read the full written submission sent to Human Rights Council ahead of its 45th regular session here
      Al Haq

 

September 2 Israel

·Israel failed: after record 3,000 new cases, czar threatens holiday lockdown. Prof. Ronni Gamzu will submit to the cabinet a list of new, more detailed limitations for localities where infection rates are highest. Despite the continued outbreaks, the infection coefficient – the R number, or how many people each infected person infects on average – has reached the goal that Gamzu set when he assumed his post – under 1 – and now stands at 0.9. 

Haaretz

September 3 Gaza

  • This commentary about the pandemic in Gaza cites following data from the Gaza Health Ministry: more than 500 confirmed cases of the virus across Gaza — at least 365 were from community transmission, and 37 from travel returnees; 76 had recovered, with five deaths. Over 2,400 people are in quarantine centers or home isolation. The ministry has further classified northern Gaza as a red zone, placing it under a strict lockdown and forbidding any movement unless absolutely necessary.    

+972

 

September 3 Israel

  • In one week, on September 10, the coronavirus cabinet is expected to decide on new fall holidays restrictions to vary among localities based on infection rates, as well as a nationwide lockdown during the Rosh Hashanah weekend. After a record 3,000 new cases, public health professionals predict that Israel’s infection curve is unlikely to begin dropping over the next week. More likely, some say, is that the start of the school year on Tuesday will lead to more cases of COVID-19 in the next couple of weeks.

Haaretz ***

Haaretz

 

September 4 Gaza

  • Gaza’s separation from Israel and the rest of the world, which temporarily protected it from an outbreak  of COVID-19, may now be counting against it. “We are nowhere near the peak, and the situation is deteriorating,” said Basem Naim, Gaza’s former health minister. On August 24, a mother fell ill after traveling to Jerusalem so her child could receive cardiac treatment. Contact tracing immediately went into action, and four members of her family in Gaza also tested positive. Once community spread occurred, self-isolation was an impossibility in the densely crowded refugee camps. Poor infrastructure, economy, and healthcare; staff, equipment, and fuel shortages; and near-constant bombardment and conflict highlight the urgent need for international collaboration and humanitarian assistance.

Middle East Eye

 

·Pain and poetry under quarantine. Rami Almeghari, a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip, describes entering a 21-day quarantine in a hospital when he returns home to Gaza.

Electronic Intifada

 

  • In April the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, or GCMHP, issued a factsheet in cooperation with the Palestinian nonprofit umbrella organization PNGO describing the mental health conditions in Gaza Strip in the shadow of COVID-19. In agreement with the core donors, GCMHP started a crisis response plan covering the period of April to September 2020. The plan includes scaling up activities related to awareness over the restrictions on public gatherings and workshops.  The toll-free telephone counseling service was also expanded to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Activities planned inside of schools and kindergartens were postponed and replaced with awareness campaigns using social media and other media platforms that targeted parents. Therapeutic interventions were modified in order to ensure social distancing, avoid crowded clinics and ensure continuity of therapy. Capacity building activities were moved online or (if not possible) rescheduled. Once community spread was detected and a lockdown was imposed, GCMHP contacted the ministry of health asking if they could open their three community centers. The request was not accepted. The ministry closed all primary health care services, postponed all surgical operations and is open only for emergency procedures while working to identify foci of COVID-19 in the community and control further spread. GCMPH kept operating their toll-free line and intensified media campaigns. Their current plan is to run three mobile clinics to reach patients and distribute medications, and connect them with their therapists through mobile phones.

Mondoweiss

 

September 4 Occupied territories & Israel

  • 32,817 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 24,445 in the West Bank; 697 in Gaza; 7,675 in East Jerusalem; 192 deaths. 126,419 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 993 deaths; Israel’s recorded it’s single largest recorded number of new cases on Wednesday with 3,074 testing positive. Most of the Gaza Strip remains under lockdown for a second week as health officials scramble to rapidly increase testing while ordering Palestinians to their homes in attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Last week saw the entire Gaza Strip under lockdown as the first cases of community transmission were discovered. This week those lockdowns were reduced to 19 hotspots. 

Mondoweiss

 

  • Haaretz listed 25,277 active cases and 991 total deaths in Israel. The military sent dozens of soldiers to quarantine after two cases were diagnosed in an officer training school. Joint List lawmaker Mtanes Shehadeh accused top health official Ronni Gamzu of failing to take responsibility and "blaming Arab citizens for the rise in infections." The West Bank had 9,792 active cases, and 185 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, there were 500 active cases and five people have died. The military has sent dozens of soldiers to quarantine after two cases were diagnosed in an officer training school. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus passed 50,000 in the Middle East, according to a count from The Associated Press based on official numbers provided by health authorities. Those numbers still may be an undercount, though, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited.

 

September 5 Occupied territories & Israel

  • This is a link to a petition being circulated by No Way to Treat a Child – US:

We, the undersigned, demand Israeli authorities take immediate action to release all Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19.

Defense of Children International Palestine

 

September 5 Israel

  • Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the Israeli official managing the country's coronavirus response, said Saturday that dozens of Arab citizens could die of the illness within a month. Gamzu added that there around 750 Israeli Arabs diagnosed every day, and that the number will rise to 800 a day. "According to statistics, half a percent to a percent could die within three to four weeks," he said.

 Haaretz

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