December 6- 12, 2020
December 6 Gaza
As cases surge, Gaza's main COVID-19 lab halted work for lack of equipment. 726 new patients were diagnosed in the 24 hours, bringing the number of active coronavirus patients to 10,591. 375 are hospitalized and 157 are on ventilators. The ministry said it recently managed to increase the number of coronavirus beds in hospitals to 170 and hopes to obtain equipment in the next few weeks to further increase the number to 200. True number of cases in Gaza is unknown due to low testing rates, but some 30% of tests return positive.
A Physicians for Human Rights Israel delegation brought medical equipment and drugs with them for use in treating various conditions, not just the virus. Most was delivered directly to hospitals and the rest to the Gazan Health Ministry’s pharmacy division.
December 6 Israel
Warning of a "wild" rise in cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet that the pandemic was entering a third wave in Israel. A ministerial committee approved recommendations to extend the restricted status of two Arab towns in Northern Arab towns as Israel prepared to start a vaccination campaign in December. Netanyahu said that the committee formed to deal with vaccines and their distribution will be “apolitical and purely professional.”
December 7 Gaza & West Bank
Health officials said that they could no longer carry out coronavirus tests in the Gaza Strip because of a lack of kits amid a spike in cases in the besieged Palestinian territory. The health ministry asked the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to immediately send medical supplies to Gaza. But the PA, which rules the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, is suffering from its own shortage of tests and has also turned to the WHO for more. In total, the Palestinian health ministry has recorded more than 74,160 COVID-19 cases, including nearly 700 deaths, in the West Bank. In Gaza, nearly 25,600 infections have been officially registered, including about 150 deaths.
December 7 Gaza & Israel
The Gaza Strip can resume coronavirus testing and has enough kits for eight days after receiving 19,500 coronavirus of them testing kits from the World Health Organization, the enclave’s Health Ministry said. The ministry said on December 6, that the main laboratory conducting coronavirus tests in Gaza had been forced to halt operations because of a shortage of equipment. Israel expects to receive the first batch of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on Thursday, health officials say, to coincide with an FDA hearing on approving its emergency use. Only about 200,000 doses of the vaccine are expected as part of the first delivery – enough for 100,000 people. Israel's coronavirus cabinet has announced new measures on re-entering the country, conditioning home isolation on a negative coronavirus test. If Israelis are unable to present a negative COVID-19 test, they will be required to self-isolate in a state-run facility.
December 7 West Bank & Israel
An Israeli military judge ordered the release on bail of Amal Nakhleh, accused of stone throwing, but an appeal is keeping the minor, at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, in jail indefinitely.
December 7 Israel
The Alon Command, the Israel Defense Forces program for breaking chains of coronavirus infections, has been able to trace the source of infection only in 50% of confirmed cases, even though it started operating three months ago. Experts on the coronavirus cabinet have expressed their dissatisfaction with these results, “which fundamentally impedes setting a well-thought out policy.”
December 8 Gaza & West Bank
Hamas said it had received nearly 20,000 coronavirus test kits from the World Health Organization (WHO), after warning it could no longer perform testing in Gaza due to a shortage. Hamas announced a lockdown on weekends lasting from 11 December to the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said that it would re-impose a week-long lockdown in four out of 11 provinces. "The governorates of Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Tulkarem will be completely closed from the evening of Thursday, 10 December for a period of seven days," Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said. "All commercial and service activities will be shut down, except for pharmacies, bakeries, supermarkets and grocery stores."
Following an emergency delivery of tests to Gaza by the WHO, health officials expected to start reporting numbers again. Palestinian Minister of Health Dr. Mai al-Kaila described the situation in Palestine as “dangerous” due to the rapidly growing infection rate and because hospital ICUs in the West Bank and Gaza are filling up with COVID-19 patients, many of whom are requiring ventilators. Due to rising numbers, the government announced a full-scale one week closure until December 17 in select districts of the West Bank; weekend lockdown will remain in place across the West Bank.
December 8 Occupied territories & Israel
Al-Haq launched a position paper, COVID-19 and the Right to Health of Palestinians under Israeli Occupation, Colonisation and Apartheid, explaining how Israel’s settler-colonial project and institutionalized regime of systematic racial oppression and domination compound the denial of Palestinians’ underlying determinants of health on both side of the Green Line, thereby amplifying the susceptibility of Palestinian communities to COVID-19.
From the beginning, there were well-founded fears that the pandemic would do disproportionate harm in Gaza due to Israeli policies and international neglect. At the end of November, the health ministry in the territory reported that it had less than a one-month supply of nearly half of all essential medicines. It also had critical shortages of medical disposables, part of the “permanent emergency” borne by Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid, as the human rights group Al-Haq states in a new position paper on COVID-19 and Palestinians’ right to health. Beyond Israeli movement restrictions, the ongoing denial of Palestinian self-determination “remains a major impediment to the full and progressive realization of Palestinians’ economic, social and cultural rights, including to health,” Al-Haq states. Palestinians are denied access to clean water and adequate sanitation while political prisoners held by Israel face “overcrowded and unsanitary detention conditions.” “The political and historic forces to which Palestinians have been subjected compound their susceptibility to COVID-19.”
December 8 Israel
'Imported infection': Israelis' trips abroad are the 'achilles' heel' in war on COVID, officials say.
The Health Ministry seeks to impose mandatory quarantine on all Israelis returning from abroad, with passengers arriving from “green” locations isolating at home and those coming from locations with high infection rates going to so-called coronavirus quarantine hotels.
December 9 West Bank & Israel
As the coronavirus infection rate rises in the West Bank, paired with the rise in infection rates across Israel, authorities declared that sample coronavirus tests will be carried out at checkpoints for Palestinians in possession of a permit to work in Israel. The tests will be carried out by the Alon Command, the Israel Defense Forces program in charge of epidemiological investigations, in partnership with the Civil Administration, which administers the West Bank. Palestinian workers will have to give consent to undergo testing. Those who refuse testing will not be permitted to enter Israel.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the Health Ministry has decided "after long discussions" that those who test negative for the coronavirus twice can leave self-isolation after 10, rather than 14 days. In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Edelstein said that the decision is "good news for the Israeli economy as well as for citizens."
December 9 Israel
Israel received the first shipment of coronavirus vaccines, and plans to start inoculating on December 27. Israelis vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given a certificate allowing them full freedom of movement. The Israeli health minister says, “This is th only way we can return to full economic activity.”
The poverty rate in Israel jumped from about a fifth of all families to almost a third since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic this year. Data shows that 422,000 Israeli households are in financial distress – a rise of 14.5% since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Out of 656,000 families (22.6%) living in nutritional insecurity, 286,000 (9.9%) of them live in dangerously low nutritional insecurity.
Despite the fact that it has, as required by law, renewed the Shin Bet’s authority to tap the Israeli public’s cell phones for contact tracing, a top lawyer for the Health Ministry admitted that approval has been based on faulty, misleading and inconsistent data. The actual success rate for detecting Israelis who subsequently test positive for coronavirus seems to be 13.5%.
December 10 Occupied territories
WHO occupied Palestine territory (WHOoPt) issued Situation Report 55 on coronavirus disease with a full range of data and multiple graphics. On the West Bank, Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus are the hardest hit areas, but Gaza numbers are worse.
December 11 Gaza
A series of new restrictions was announced in Gaza continuing through the end of the year. Around 40% of the active Palestinian COVID-19 cases are located in Gaza and around half of the deaths over the last week occurred there. The WHO secured a new shipment of COVID-19 tests, paid for by Kuwait and Germany. The positivity rate for Gazans tested between December 1-10 was 29.3%. The Palestinian economy shrank 8% in 2020. “The outlook for the Palestinian economy looks grim especially after the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the World Bank said.
December 12 Israel & Occupied territories
Israel currently has 16,400 active cases; 2,969 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 16,561 active cases and 839 deaths, and in Gaza 9,953 active cases and 169 deaths. Israel's Health Ministry said this week that it is awaiting FDA approval before a national vaccine roll-out, which will swiftly follow the U.S. body's decision. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a proposal debated by the government to impose restrictions over the Hanukkah holiday won't come into effect until later in the week.
November 29 - December 5, 2020
Study from Islamic Relief World Wide: economic and psychological toll from Covid 19 in Gaza
Covid-19 crisis: monthly incomes in Gaza have fallen by almost 90%, down to $29 per month. Almost 60% of people are no longer able to afford basic food, medicine and other essential supplies, and 82% are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and stress because they are increasingly unable to support their families. 92% of people surveyed said they have not received any government or non-government food or cash support during the pandemic. Many are forced to make the impossible choice between buying food for their children or medicine for sick relatives. The past few weeks have seen Covid-19 cases in Gaza escalate at the highest rate yet, and Islamic Relief is warning that the impact is likely to get worse as winter approaches.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs November/December
“The inequality reduces our ability to face the pandemic. Before, it was the occupying power locking us in, and containing us, from the world. Now, we are also locked down to stop the spread of coronavirus, with minimal hygiene capacity to form a preventative barrier.”
November 29 Gaza & Israel
Gaza received medical aid from Kuwait as hospitals buckled under COVID caseload. Israeli pandemic czar said third lockdown was ‘on the agenda.’
November 29 Israel
Calls for help from Arab Israeli women suffering domestic violence surged during both lockdowns. A new chat service makes it possible to get help discreetly while confined with abusive partners.
Although the Shin Bet surveillance on civilians has proved ineffective in breaking the chain of coronavirus infections in Israel, the state, which has yet to offer an alternative to help trace carriers of the virus, seems dead set on reauthorizing the problematic tracking measures. There are many privacy and civil rights issues. One major reason for the app’s failure is that the ultra Orthodox community and children don’t have smartphones.
November 30 Gaza
Daily hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to rise in the Gaza Strip, bringing the average of serious and critical cases to 20% of confirmed cases. Two million Palestinians in Gaza are at an increasing risk of contracting the virus amid a severely depleted healthcare system, which is largely attributable to Israel’s ongoing 14-year closure. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) is particularly concerned over emerging reports of shortages in intensive care unit beds, ventilators, medical oxygen, and testing kits, which calls for an urgent intervention to support the medical sector.
November 30 Israel
The coronavirus vaccine being developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona will require only one dose, and Israel plans to produce 15 million doses. The third and final phase of testing on Israel's single-dose vaccine is expected to begin in April.
As an occupying power, Israel is responsible for administering any COVID vaccine used in Israel to Palestinians as well. Senior Israeli health officials, however, have not taken into account the number of vaccines needed for five million Palestinians, residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, living under Israeli control. The first, immediate step is to purchase millions more vaccine doses. After all, the virus, unlike the Israeli government, does not differentiate between Jews and Palestinians.”
December 1 Gaza
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, has contracted the coronavirus. According to Hamas, Sinwar feels well and is working as usual while adhering to Gaza's COVID guidelines. Gaza has suffered record numbers of coronavirus cases over past weeks with diagnoses exceeding 5,000, and the West Bank has more active cases than Israel.
December 1 Occupied territories
Palestine saw the highest rate of daily infections of the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic in the past 24 hours, following the first weekend of newly imposed lockdowns in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, there were 2,536 new cases and a record 16 deaths. The new cases put the total number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine past 101,000, with more than 20,000 active cases of the virus. The majority new cases in the West Bank were reported in the Nablus district, followed by the Hebron districts. The majority of new deaths were reported in Gaza, where there were more than 800 new cases reported.
December 1 Occupied territories & Israel
According to recent reports in the Israeli media, Germany has promised to include the country in the EU’s coronavirus vaccination deal that is being made with large pharmaceutical companies. Pleas by Palestinian doctors in Gaza that the health system could collapse, have largely gone unheard and the Berlin-Tel Aviv deal only underscores that which makes no mention of Palestinians. There have been no commitments made by Germany towards the Palestinians who are currently under an Israeli occupation
The news that pharmaceutical companies have apparently succeeded in developing an effective vaccine against the coronavirus is encouraging, especially in light of the Israeli government’s success in signing deals to supply of millions of doses of the vaccine. But senior health officials erred in their calculations: They counted only the number of vaccine doses needed to immunize nine million Israeli citizens, and failed to include the number of doses needed to vaccinate five million Palestinians, residents of the West Bank and Gaza, living under Israeli control and responsibility.
December 2 Occupied territories & Israel
Germany is planning to give Israel special access to vaccine stocks due, in part, to its “historical commitment to supporting Israel.” But it is a safe assumption Palestinians will indeed be denied the vaccine while Israeli settlers living illegally on their land gain privileged access. This is because Jewish settlers are fully integrated into Israel’s political, health and legal system, while Palestinians in the occupied territories must deal with a healthcare system that is grossly under-resourced.
December 3 Israel
The coronavirus outbreak in Israel has led to 20% more deaths this year than in previous years, and especially in the months of August through October – the period during which most of Israel’s COVID-19 deaths occurred. COVID deaths have been climbing since August – and 21 % of all deaths in Israel in October were caused by the pandemic.
December 4 Gaza
Gaza’s hospitals are nearing capacity as Palestinians pass the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 cases. In the last week the West Bank hit its own benchmark reporting 1,689 cases in a 24-hour period. Gaza now accounts for more than 10,000 active cases, around 42% of cases in all the Palestinian territory.
It’s widely considered that COVID-19 is under-recorded in Gaza due to limited testing capacity. WHO noted that Gaza may have run out of tests. JVP Health Advisory Council has organized donations to Gaza with Medical Aid for Palestinians. Here.
December 5 Gaza
The pandemic has posed a formidable challenge to the so-called "first world", but the Gaza Strip's widespread poverty and 70 percent unemployment, as well as the racial discrimination and institutionalized oppression imposed by the occupiers, make it among the most precarious and vulnerable sites in the world. Gaza's people are now undergoing a new kind of slow massacre. Slower. Gaza has recorded a total of 23,811 confirmed cases, including 142 critical cases and 129 deaths. Urgent hospitalization is needed by 349 people, but there are only 150 hospital beds available; over 78% of all the hospital beds in Gaza are designated for Covid-19 patients.
December 5 Occupied territories
WHO in the occupied Palestinian Territory has created a page with all the latest updates on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Image above gives latest information on:
confirmed COVID-19 cases via our dashboard
The situation in oPt
How to sign up to stay informed about COVID-19
updates on the regional and global situation.
oPt's preparedness measures for COVID-19
Health official health advice and guidance
November 22 – 28, 2020
November 22 Gaza
Gaza coronavirus cases surged and medical authorities ramped up pressure on Hamas to impose a three-week lockdown, but authorities feared lockdown could mean mass hunger. The Gaza Strip has suffered a record number of daily new coronavirus cases, with the Health Ministry saying there had been 891 new cases over the past day. The number of cases has risen to 5,036, with 332 in the hospital and 78 in serious condition, and deaths rising to 62, most of them in the past two months.
Gaza's health system could be overwhelmed by next week because of a surge in coronavirus cases. The blockaded territory has almost run out of ventilators and could have no space in intensive-care units in 10 days' time. In 10 days the health system will become unable to absorb such a hike in cases and there might be cases that will not find a place at intensive-care units. Overcrowding among Gaza's population of two million and the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have long caused concern about the virus's potential impact, but the territory had escaped a major outbreak until August. That has changed since then, with almost 15,000 cases and 65 deaths recorded. One fifth of tests are now coming back positive.
A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave’s medical system by next week, public health advisers said. Gaza’s Hamas rulers have so far imposed one lockdown. A long-standing Israeli blockade, which is supported by neighboring Egypt, has crippled the Gazan economy and undermined its public health apparatus.
November 22 Gaza & Israel
The Israeli Health Ministry said that 837 more people had tested positive for the coronavirus in Arab communities over the weekend. Last week, 2,168 cases were diagnosed among Israel's Arabs, not including cases registered in mixed-population cities.
A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave's meagre medical system by next week, public health advisers said. Seventy-nine of Gaza's 100 ventilators have been taken up by COVID-19 patients, said Abdelraouf Elmanama, a microbiologist who is part of the enclave's pandemic task force. "In 10 days the health system will become unable to absorb such a hike in cases and there might be cases that will not find a place at intensive care units," he said, adding that the current 0.05% mortality rate among COVID-19 patients could rise.
November 22 West Bank
The Palestinian Health Ministry has recommended strict limits on Christmas celebrations in occupied Bethlehem this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Washington Post ***
November 23 Gaza
A rapid rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip has reached a “catastrophic stage,” with the blockaded Palestinian enclave’s medical system likely to collapse soon, health officials warned. Medical workers in Gaza face a serious shortage of equipment; the lack of ventilators, PPE, and medicine under the Israeli siege becomes a ‘death sentence’ for coronavirus patients.
Hamas has warned against an unfolding health catastrophe amid a trend of new COVID-19 infections across the besieged Gaza Strip and an exhausted medical system. Gaza Health Ministry needs more than one medical oxygen generation plant and over 50 ventilators to confront the virus. A Gaza Heath Ministry official, has also warned that with the winter coming it is likely that the percentage of emergency cases rise to 40. He called on international organizations to support the health sector by equipping intensive care units.
A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in Gaza could overwhelm the territory’s meager medical system next week, public health advisers have warned. Some 14,000 people have become infected with Covid-19 in the Palestinian enclave and 65 have died so far – with most of the infections occurring after August. The emergency health lead in the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, said that “within a week, we will become unable to care for critical cases”. He said that 21% of tests were turning out positive, and more 60-year-olds were becoming infected. “This is a dangerous indicator since most of [those over 60] may need to be hospitalized.”
November 23 West Bank
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said a full weekend lockdown would be imposed in the West Bank from Friday through Sunday. On Sunday, a nighttime curfew would be imposed from 7 P.M. to 6 A.M. for two weeks as a measure to curb the rapid increase in infection rates in the West Bank.
November 23 Israel
Arab towns account for 45 percent of Israel's COVID-19 cases, and rising. Testing is far too low, Arab Emergency Committee says, as is compliance with regional lockdowns – and it is unlikely to change without a proper economic safety net. Last week 2,168 new cases were confirmed. These figures do not include mixed (Arab and Jewish) towns, though Arabs are believed to account for many of the cases in these communities too. A leader of the response to the coronavirus in the Arab community, attributes the rising infection rate to large weddings that are still being held, to travelers returning from abroad (mainly from Turkey) and to infections in schools.
November 24 Gaza
Hospitals in Gaza currently have less than one hundred ICU beds and ventilators for nearly two million inhabitants. Eighty % of ventilators for Coronavirus patients have already been taken up. The World Health Organization cautioned that within a week, the health system in Gaza may become unable to care for critical cases. Despite the increasing number of Coronavirus infections the Israeli regime continues to place tight restrictions on the entry of humanitarian supplies including medical equipment.
November 24 Israel
Israel's rape crisis centers have reported a surge in calls during the pandemic. Fully 92% of rape investigations in Israel in 2019 ended without charges being filed, according to a report issued by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. The report coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 25.
A team of experts tasked with recommending how to divide up the three brands of coronavirus vaccines that Israel expects to receive in the coming months is expected to complete its work by next week. Based on agreements signed with the companies developing the vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – the Health Ministry anticipates that most of the vaccines will reach Israel during the first half of 2021.
The Arab Emergency Committee, which is responsible for the coronavirus response in Israel's Arab community, sounded the alarm after new figures revealed 45% of new cases diagnosed were from Arab towns. The Committee also warned that undertesting and the unwillingness of people to get tested could also hide a much starker picture. Officials emphasized that the lack of an appropriate economic safety net encourages non-compliance with coronavirus rules, including localized lockdowns.
November 25 Gaza & West Bank
UNRWA does not have sufficient funds to pay November salaries. Meanwhile, UNRWA’s staff are “the frontline of the response” to COVID-19 in the Eastern Mediterranean region where it operates. Among UN agencies, UNRWA staff reports the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
Health authorities are warning that the medical system in Gaza – where nearly 75 % of the population of two million are refugees – is on the verge of collapse as COVID-19 cases tripled in the besieged territory over the past month.
There are currently some 7,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Gaza and more than 9,000 in the West Bank, though official figures are believed to be much lower than the actual rates due to limited testing. The Palestinian health minister in the West Bank says the true number of cases might be three times higher than the official figures indicate.
The economy in the West Bank and Gaza will shrink by 8 % in 2020 largely due to COVID-19 restrictions, the World Bank has projected. Meanwhile, some 121,000 Palestinians lost their jobs in the second quarter of the year alone. UNRWA’s funding shortfall will only worsen an already bad situation.
November 25 West Bank
After days of rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced it would impose a new series of lockdowns in the West Bank beginning November 27. With close to 20,000 new cases reported in Palestine in the past 24 hours, the daily rate continues to grow particularly in the Nablus and Bethlehem districts of the West Bank. The start of winter has caused additional concern among health officials, as the seasonal flu has also become a major issue.
November 25 Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting to discuss coronavirus enforcement. During the meeting, he instructed participants to examine the possibility of closing the crossings into and out of the Palestinian territories as coronavirus cases rise in the West Bank and Gaza. "We need to lower the rate of infection," Netanyahu said. "We must [crack down] on parties in red and orange cities in order to prevent illegal weddings and gatherings."
November 26 Occupied territories
The UN agency for Palestinians is running out of money for the first time while the pandemic is exacerbating the needs of refugees. UNRWA has been underfunded for years, and in 2020 received the lowest level of contributions since 2012. Without new donations of $70 million from the international community, 28,000 employees will have salaries reduced for the rest of the year. On November 26, Palestinian employees of UNRWA took part in a protest against planned salary cuts outside UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City.
Covid 19 numbers are rising, threatening the health care systems. Oxygen supply generators have been identified as critical gap, in particular in the dedicated treatment facility for COVID-19 patients in Gaza, and the health cluster is working on mobilizing respective equipment through international suppliers
WHO and partners have co-ordinated the delivery of 35 ventilators, to arrive over the coming days in Gaza to augment treatment capacities accordingly.
Relief Web (OCHA)
November 27 West Bank
As a new lockdown began in the West Bank, health officials struggled to contain a surge in spread over the last month. Late summer and early fall saw a higher recovery rate v. rate of new infections among Palestinians, meaning the overall curve was down. This trend reversed around mid-September and continues to reach new peaks each week, with the last week having the most dramatic uptick of the entire pandemic.
November 27 Occupied territories
Excellent compilation of graphic materials showing dramatic rise in cases in the State of Palestine. Editors note: The numbers are slightly different than the ones I am reporting from WHO…also I think the “State of Palestine” probably does not include East Jerusalem.
Two-day lockdown was imposed as the occupied Palestinian territories report more than 91,000 coronavirus cases. The West Bank, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) government has limited control over, will also implement a 14-day partial night-time curfew. Gaza is struggling to contain the number of cases amid a breakdown of health services and limited medical supplies.
November 27 Occupied territories & Israel
Fifteen malls in Israel reopen in government pilot. Pandemic czar says third lockdown is 'on the agenda'. Serious cases drop, but overall active cases rise. Israel weighs closing West Bank, Gaza crossings amid Palestinian COVID spike.
Israel currently has 9,429 active cases; 2,834 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 8,132 active cases and 703 deaths, and in Gaza 8,626 active cases and 90 deaths.
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition has reached 109, and that intensive care units are 75 % full, with both numbers expected to rise. The ministry also reported that over the past 24 hours, 827 new cases were diagnosed, bringing the total number of active cases to 8,626. Some 334 people are hospitalized, with 109 people on ventilators. The death toll currently stands at 90.
November 27 Israel
Israel’s Health Ministry is examining the possibility of requiring teachers to be tested for the coronavirus before they can go back to work, at the request of the coronavirus cabinet. The ministry is also considering authorizing school principals and Education Ministry inspectors to prevent staff from returning to preschools and schools if they have not been tested. Teachers unions are expected to oppose such a step.
Thousands of middle-class Israelis are becoming homeless and seeking out free hot meals as the pandemic continues to plague the economy. Organizations that help people in need wonder how long they will be able to cope.
November 15 - 21, 2020
Health Disparities in the US
Check out Embracerace--An excellent website for up to date information and resources on COVID-19 racial disparities, discrimination and community support. Here is the opening paragraph that explains this site:
"The COVID-19 crisis is hurting all our communities, but not equally. The data that would allow us to document the pandemic’s uneven toll rigorously are incomplete and only now emerging - and it’s already clear that communities of color, including children, once again are on the frontlines of vulnerability. We’ve gathered - and are updating regularly - news links that begin to tell the story of the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous and People of Color and other racialized communities. These communities have been sounding the alarm about the vulnerabilities imposed on them by systemic bigotry and malign neglect for a very long time. Will our policy makers and all of us, collectively, hear and respond to the clarion call this time around? (Also see COVID Resources that Take Race Seriously.)"
November 15 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel has directly contributed to the deterioration of Palestinians’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Al-Shabaka explores the different ways in which Israel has impacted Palestinians’ ability to respond to and mitigate the disastrous effects of the pandemic, and recommends approaches to addressing the Palestinian health crisis.
Firstly, it explores the active and passive “de-development” of the Palestinian health system prior to the pandemic. Secondly, it examines the ways in which Israel has not fulfilled its legal obligations towards the Palestinians regarding COVID-19. And finally, it analyzes the ways in which the occupation has worsened the health situation by restricting Palestinian initiatives.
November 15 Israel
Forty percent of new cases and 35 percent of active cases in Israel are in Arab cities, towns and villages, according to data published by the Arab Emergency Committee. In the past week, 1,750 new cases were diagnosed in Arab locales. This figure underestimates the true number of cases in the Arab population, as it does not include data from cities with a mixed Arab-Jewish population or places with less than 15 cases. According to the committee, some 350 Arabs have died in Israel from COVID-19, representing 12.8 percent of the total deaths, although Arabs make up over 20 percent of the country's population. Nazareth, Qalansawe and Iksal are now designated "red" coronavirus hotspots, followed by Rahat, Taibe, and Kafr Qassem, which also have high rates of infection.
The coronavirus cabinet was set to discuss Sunday imposing a nighttime curfew as the rate of infection continued to climb to the highest point since the second coronavirus wave swept across Israel in September. The cabinet will also discuss loosening other restrictions although Health Ministry statistics show the pandemic was still spreading.
The Alon Command, the Israel Defense Forces program for breaking chains of coronavirus infections, tracks social media to identify planned events with the potential to spread the virus. The monitoring is carried out by around 2,800 soldiers, some of whom serve in Military Intelligence. The intelligence they gather is forwarded to the police, raising concerns about the ‘slippery slope to authoritarianism.
Israel weighs nighttime curfew as covid infection rate reaches highest point since September. The cabinet will also discuss loosening other restrictions although Health Ministry statistics show the pandemic is still spreading.
Netanyahu celebrates deal, but Pfizer 'keeps right to do anything it wants' with COVID Vaccine. The agreement for four million coronavirus vaccines is more of a statement of intent than a legally binding deal. Israel has a similar agreement with Moderna, which is expected to announce success of Stage 3 trials of its vaccine in the near future.
Israel’s Health Ministry is heading into winter after nine months in which its staff increasingly suffered from burnout, friction with the political establishment, daily criticism by the public – and a wave of departures by key officials that have left important managerial positions vacant. The departures have hamstrung the ministry’s day-to-day operations in areas that are not necessarily related to the coronavirus pandemic.
November 17 Israel
Israel currently has 8,150 active cases; 2,736 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 5,790 active cases and 608 deaths, and in Gaza 3,545 active cases and 50 deaths.
The High Court of Justice issued a show cause order ordering the state to explain why Shin Bet contact tracking of coronavirus patients is not limited to cases in which patients are uncooperative with epidemiological investigators. The court also ordered the state to explain why, as is required by law, it is not promoting civilian technology as an alternative to the use of contact tracing.
November 18 Gaza
Improbable as it may seem, the pandemic has prompted many of Gaza’s emigrants to come back. Ahmad al-Masri, 25, was badly injured by an Israeli sniper as he took part in the Great March of Return in March 2018. After undergoing surgery in Gaza, he went to Cairo for further treatment toward the end of 2018. Once he had recovered sufficiently, al-Masri planned to leave for western Europe via Turkey. Yet in August this year, al-Masri moved back to Gaza. Restrictions introduced by Egypt in response to the coronavirus meant that his options had narrowed.
November 18 Gaza & Lebanon
The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Gaza is rising at an alarming rate, with 600 new cases reported in just the last 24 hours. Cumulative cases in Gaza are now 12,000+, and while this is a small number relative to the overall population, the ability to test and treat new and existing cases in hospitals and clinics is limited. The number of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon is reaching new heights. Lebanon’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse and its medical institutions are pleading for support. There are insufficient numbers of beds, medical equipment and tests in the country to meet the needs.
November 18 Occupied territories
Palestinians are concerned as West Bank and Gaza hit COVID-19 records. Amid 1,068 new daily cases – the highest number yet – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are making do in part with a lockdown of institutions and businesses that violate health restrictions. In addition, there were 90 new cases reported in East Jerusalem, boosting the number of active COVID-19 cases in the three locations to 9,335. Medical authorities in the West Bank say, however, that the actual number of infected residents is apparently triple the official data. The new figures reflect a particularly major spike in cases.
November 18 Occupied territories & Israel
Eleven Palestinians died on Tuesday from the coronavirus and 1,068 new verified infections were recorded on Tuesday evening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). This is the highest number of infections among Palestinian detected in one day: 486 in Gaza and 582 in the West Bank. In East Jerusalem, 90 new infections were reported. According to medical sources, the number of actual infections is probably three times higher.
A set of restrictions and local curfews are in place in both Palestinian territories, and authorities have stepped up enforcement, which includes detention for those flouting coronavirus rules. Officials are urging the population to respect the regulation, warning about the impoverished health system's collapse.
The Israeli military announced it would no longer monitor posts on social media in Israel as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Israel's Military Intelligence has assisted the police in trying to break the chain of infection by monitoring social media posts to stop large gatherings, such as outdoor raves, as well as locating infected individuals who violated quarantine. The military is wary of overstepping its boundaries when it comes to its role in the fight against the coronavirus, out of concern that it could be perceived as harmful to democracy, according to senior officials.
November 18 Israel
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent an urgent letter to Israel’s interior minister demanding he revoke a policy threat that excludes at-risk populations, notably Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) from receiving COVID-19 food security grants.
November 19 Eastern Mediterranean
Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region noted that the virus had sickened over 3.6 million people and killed more than 76,000 in the region, and warned of a deadly second wave across the Middle East. He said the only way to avoid mass deaths is for countries to quickly tighten restrictions and enforce preventative measures; he expressed concern that countries were lowering their guard after tough lockdowns imposed earlier this year.
November 20 West Bank
Palestinians with disabilities were in the third week of a sit-in protest inside the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, demanding the right to comprehensive health insurance as guaranteed under law under the slogan, “A movement for a decent life for people with disabilities.” The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed large gaps in the healthcare provided to individuals with disabilities.
November 20 Occupied territories & Israel
COVID-19 cases continued to drop in Israel and the West Bank; new cases kept rising in Gaza, but overall active Palestinian cases dropped by about 12% this week. Testing has been limited, especially in the West Bank, but at least 482,531 laboratory samples of Palestinians have been tested. Over half of Palestinian coronavirus cases have come from Hebron and East Jerusalem. Though 28% come from Gaza City and the northern districts, with more than 1,000 new cases in Gaza in the last week, earlier lockdown measures continued to be eased.
November 21 Occupied territories
Latest Worldometer updates and graphical displays of COVID-19 statistics for Palestine.
November 8 - 14, 2020
Health Disparities in the US and internationally: Measles!
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early spring (2020), there has been a considerable decrease in rates of routine childhood and adult immunization coverage. This is concerning given the potential consequences for individual immunity as well as reduced herd immunity to vaccine-preventable illnesses. The Lancet, Nov. 12, 2020 discusses the negative impact that COVID has had on routine measles vaccine rates, and the dire consequences of pockets of people who will not have protection against this highly contagious disease.
Although the US has seen an overall decreasing gap in immunization rates based on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status between 2008 and 2018, it is unclear what impacts COVID-19 will have on such disparities. In May 2020, the CDC reported decreased rates of vaccination across a number of health systems, but also noted that health providers are attempting to maintain immunizations despite major barriers from COVID.
UNICEF and the World Health Organization reports significant decreases in measles immunizations campaigns across the globe due to the pandemic. Both these organizations issued warnings of the potential for widespread measles outbreaks as a result of reduced vaccine coverage. Completion of the primary series of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTP) vaccine has long been considered a marker for immunization coverage. For the first time in 28 years there is predicted to be a global decrease in DTP coverage--attributable to the impacts of COVID on healthcare systems and individuals' access to vaccines.
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, in Issue Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on US Vaccination Rates, sums up the situation. "... amid overwhelmed US healthcare systems and fears of contracting COVID-19, routine vaccination rates declined significantly across all populations in the US, with demand plummeting as much as 95 percent for certain vaccines. These declines are dangerous to public health—the US can no longer delay life-saving vaccines and must address the concerning decline in vaccination rates."
The CDC sums up the issue and the risks, "The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the importance of vaccination. The identified declines in routine pediatric vaccine ordering and doses administered might indicate that U.S. children and their communities face increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Parental concerns about potentially exposing their children to COVID-19 during well child visits might contribute to the declines observed (5). To the extent that this is the case, reminding parents of the vital need to protect their children against serious vaccine-preventable diseases, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, is critical. As social distancing requirements are relaxed, children who are not protected by vaccines will be more vulnerable to diseases such as measles. In response, continued coordinated efforts between health care providers and public health officials at the local, state, and federal levels will be necessary to achieve rapid catch-up vaccination."
Ed note: This is yet another indicator of the need for national leadership based on science, and a universal single-payer health care system to decrease any barriers that may exist to accessing preventive health care.
Back to Israel/Palestine…
November 8 Israel
Itamar Grotto, the deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, has submitted his resignation and asked his superiors to end his role at the end of the year. Within a matter of months, the top Health Ministry officials dealing with the coronavirus have been replaced. In May, Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov stepped down. In July, Siegal Sadetzki, the director of public health services at the Health Ministry, resigned, citing irreconcilable differences over policy in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel is under threat of a third lockdown as early as next month if the economy continues to open up, says Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Elrai Price.
“If the coronavirus cabinet continues to make decisions that go against Health Ministry recommendations, the pandemic will get out of control,” she said in an interview in which she criticized the opening of shops as “going against the Health Ministry’s exit strategy.”
November 9 Middle East
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees announced that it has run out of money to pay the salaries of its staff across the Middle East, after two years of funding cuts by the United States and some other donors. Last year the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly renewed UNRWA’s mandate for another three years, with 169 votes in favor and nine abstentions. The US and Israel voted against. This will have a devastating effect on UNRW’s response to the pandemic.
November 9 Israel
Israel may have to enter a third lockdown as early as December if the economy continues to open up in an unchecked manner, warned a top Health Ministry official, as storefronts opened for the first time in nearly two months. Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services, criticized the opening of shops, which she said went “against the Health Ministry’s exit strategy.”
Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis said he tested positive for coronavirus.
Thousands attended the funeral in Jerusalem of Rabbi David Feinstein, one of the most important Haredi rabbis, who died at age 91. Police set up roadblocks on the way to the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in an attempt to prevent a large gathering that would violate the coronavirus regulations, but the participants broke through the roadblocks. A number of people accompanying the rabbi’s body on the way to the cemetery confronted police officers and caused damage to a police vehicle, and two of them were arrested, said police.
The National Security Council warned the coronavirus cabinet that "the infection rate has returned and risen, and we are not responding to it at the speed that it demands." In a document sent to the cabinet's ministers, the council members recommended a number of steps that could help curb a renewed outbreak, such as a curfew, a weekend lockdown or localized lockdowns.
Amira Hass argues that Israel could have prevented the COVID-19 outbreak among Palestinian prisoners. In late July Israel's High Court rejected two petitions urging the adoption of available methods that could reduce coronavirus infection among Palestinian security prisoners in Gilboa Prison in northern Israel. They accepted the opinion of the State Prosecutor’s Office that the Israel Prison Service was doing everything necessary to prevent the infection of inmates in the country’s prisons, including Gilboa. Last week 87 of them tested positive in the prison.
Israel is in advanced stages of negotiations to secure a coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer Inc., who made the groundbreaking revelation on Monday that its experimental vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial data.
Currently, Israel only has agreements with two drug companies developing coronavirus vaccines: Moderna, which is also in stage 3 testing, and Arcturus, which is still in the first stage. Although the demand for COVID-19 vaccines will be enormous, and many countries have already signed agreements with vaccine developers, Pfizer Inc. has vast manufacturing capabilities, and Israel needs only a relatively small quantity of the vaccine.
Israel wants to vaccinate 2 to 4 million people, including health system employees and at-risk groups. It is possible that Pfizer is capable of supplying Israel with such a small quantity of vaccinations – even at a relatively early date – though this may only arrive in the country late 2021.
November 10 Occupied territories
Dr. Saeb Erekat, a prominent Palestinian negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, died November 10 after contracting the coronavirus last month. He was 65 years old. Erekat was in charge of all negotiations with Israel since the Oslo Accords. He was close to both Arafat and Abbas, and considered one of the main voices of the Palestinians on the world stage. Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of the Fatah movement, said that Erekat's funeral would begin November 11 in Ramallah with an hour-long military ceremony in Mukata to be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Palestinian leadership, at which Erekat’s coffin will be on display. From there, the procession will travel to Jericho for prayer and Erekat’s body will be laid to rest in a full military burial ceremony.
New York Times ***
November 10 Middle East
“Despite the immense efforts to raise sufficient funds in 2020 to maintain UNRWA’s critical services to 5.7 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, as of November 9, UNRWA has run out of money.”
November 11 West Bank
Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the funeral of Dr. Saeb Erekat,. Erekat was a lung transplant recipient who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. After contracting the novel coronavirus last month, his prospects for recovery were dim given his history of respiratory illness.
November 11 Occupied territories & Israel
The Israeli army announced that Israelis will be barred from entering Area B of the West Bank as a precautionary measure to limit the coronavirus infection rate. The Prime Minister's Office and the Health Ministry announced that three localities in the Golan Heights: Majdal Shams, Mas'ade and Buq'ata, will be marked as "restricted areas" due to the rise in COVID infection rate.
November 12 Occupied territories
Excellent graphs and graphics on pandemic and response. For instance, in Gaza:
Health authorities are reporting an increasing number of mild and moderate cases (see COVID-19 capacity analysis below)
There is concern of potential increase in the number of severe cases as more cases are being reported among older people over 60, particularly female
Health officials continue to report laboratory supplies and kits at low stock levels. While this remains a concern, testing in Gaza has not been delayed, with more than 2,500 tests a day being conducted. Authorities estimate 120,000 tests ( for an estimated US $2.8 million) are needed until the end of 2020 and WHO is working to mobilize resources to procure the required quantities from global suppliers. Further resources are needed to cover existing funding gaps
Health authorities report a shortage of oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients at the dedicated COVID-19 hospital, the European Gaza Hospital
November 12 Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the final obstacle” to a deal with Pfizer to sell its coronavirus vaccine to Israel had been removed, adding that the country would begin receiving vaccine doses in January. The Israeli prime minister announced a special ministerial committee would be formed to deal with the provision and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. The quarantine period for people who have come into contact with known coronavirus patient, or who are returning from abroad, will be reduced to 12 days, down from a full two weeks, an Israeli Health Ministry statement said. Seven lawmakers joined Joint List Knesset Member Ofer Cassif into isolation, after coming into contact with Yamina's Matan Kahana, the Knesset spokesperson announced. The list includes Naftali Bennet, a former defense minister who heads the far-right Yamina alliance, and has made recent gains in the polls.
A dangerous wave of resignations at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic has left top posts at Israel's Health Ministry empty. In the past eight months the Israeli Health Ministry’s agenda has been completely upended, and it has morphed into a kind of Coronavirus Ministry. Resources are devoted almost exclusively to handling the pandemic; the minister and the director general have been replaced along with their staffs; powerful organizations such as the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service have received broad powers that in the past belonged to the ministry, and are now working with the ministry; and a “Shield of Israel” project has been established, headed by the coronavirus project manager, who has considerable authority and also works alongside the ministry.
November 13 Occupied territories
Palestinian COVID-19 cases are on the rise. The numbers are roughly the same as in August, just before new cases peaked in September. Most of the growth is coming from Gaza where around 12 localities are designated as hotspots and under lockdown, however, the rest of the territory reopened a few weeks ago and classes have been back in session for nearly a month. There are mask protocols in place at schools and there is a nighttime curfew across the region, but businesses have reopened, and of course population density is a driving factor for the spread of disease.
On November 10, Gaza hit a record of 300 new COVID-19 cases “the highest number in a 24-hour period since the beginning of the outbreak,” WHO said.
The rapid increase in new cases comes as the UN agency responsible for funding services for Palestinian refugees announced it is on the verge of running out of money. “The number of refugees who have contracted COVID-19 has jumped from fewer than 200 in July to nearly 17,000 as of this week.”
“If we do not have additional funding by the end of this month, then we will have to enact really disheartening measures that will affect the salaries of our frontline 28,000 UNRWA staff, in the middle of a global health emergency.”
Gaza will still be in line to receive a vaccine through the COVAX initiative, which will immunize 10% of the Palestinian population, focusing on older people and those with pre-existing conditions. This week the Palestinian Authority created a National Coordination Committee to distribute the vaccine.
The ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
World Health Organization
November 13 Syria
The health system in Syria’s northwest is on the verge of collapse, doctors have warned, as the opposition-held region sees a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in overcrowded camps. Salem Abdan, director of Idlib’s health directorate, said the enclave has been recording around 400 new coronavirus cases on a daily basis in Idlib and northern Aleppo. The total number of infections had reached 10,633, with 89 confirmed deaths. “We have not yet reached the stage of complete collapse of the health system but we can say that we are on the verge of collapse if the virus continues to spread at this speed”, warned Abdan. “All our ventilators are currently being used by patients, and we need additional ventilators,” he said, calling on aid organizations and the UN to speed up their response in northwestern Syria “before it’s too late.”
Middle East Eye
November 13 Israel
A Palestinian prisoner died on November 10 after 17 years in Israeli detention. Kamal Abu Waar, 46, died at the Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He was diagnosed with throat cancer last year. Abu Waar was being held at the Gilboa prison in northern present-day Israel when he tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in July. He had recently been transferred between several Israeli hospitals and also underwent surgery to insert a breathing tube into his throat. Eventually, he was taken to the Ramle prison clinic, dubbed the “slaughterhouse” by prisoners due to its inadequacy as a medical facility.
November 14 Occupied territories
This website provides daily graphical displays of detailed COVID-19 statistics for all countries, include the State of Palestine. The latest toll for Palestine (available in English and Arabic) on November 14 was 653 new cases and 10 new deaths.
November 1 – 7, 2020
From October 27, but important info on Palestinian prisoners
“The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to the Israeli occupation to continue its attack against Palestinian prisoners through blatant disregard for their lives and health, and through devising new measures—entrenched in military orders and new forms of conduct—that would further the systematic torture of prisoners.”
November 1 Israel
Human trials have begun on a vaccine for COVID-19 developed in Israel by the government-run Institute for Biological Research. The trials, to be conducted in three phases, are likely to take close to a year before the vaccine is safe to be released to the general public. Two people have now received the shot in preliminary safety trials.
The leader of the Vishnitz Hasidic sect, Rabbi Israel Hager, condemned people who report on ultra-Orthodox school openings and mass events in violation of coronavirus regulations, referring to them as “snitches.” “One must bitterly condemn and harshly protest any Jews who raise a hand against the Torah of Moses,” said Hager, a member of the Council of Torah Sages of the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party. “To interfere with a Jew holding a celebration is offensive and unacceptable on principle…The mental and spiritual harm caused by the closure of schools is unbearable” and must not be tolerated again.
Coronavirus infection rates in the Arab community have increased significantly over the past week, according to data released on Sunday by the community's emergency committee. According to data published by the Arab community's emergency committee, last week, 1,473 new cases were diagnosed in the community, reflecting an 18 % increase from the previous week. At least 515 new cases were diagnosed in Arab communities over the weekend, not including those in cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations. The number of active cases is approaching 2,500, and active cases among Arab patients constitute more than twenty-five % of the total active cases in Israel.
Despite schools reopening to first through third grades, studies did not resume in Majdal Shams, Bu'eine and Kafr Qasem due to the cities’ high infection rates, the Education Ministry said.
November 2 Occupied territory
In past two weeks, 7,500 additional Palestinians in the oPt tested positive for COVID-19, and approximately 6,750 recovered. For the first time since mid-September, there has been a rise in active cases, from 6,703 at the end of the previous reporting period, to 7,455, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH).
These figures are believed to significantly underestimate the actual number of people who contracted the virus, due to the policy implemented in West Bank by the MoH, whereby only those showing possible symptoms, as well as travellers, are being tested, Over 500,000 laboratory samples have been tested for COVID-19 since the start of the crisis, and the positivity rate for those tested stands at around 11.1%. In Gaza, although the occupancy rate of beds in hospitals has been steadily increasing and the number of people in intensive care units (ICU) has doubled in a week, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the health system can cope with the current caseload. Detailed information and graphics.
November 2 Israel
The downward trend of coronavirus infection rates achieved following Israel's second nationwide lockdown might have been slowed down almost to a complete stop, according to a report published by Israel’s national coronavirus command center. Over the past week, there has been a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 patients from East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods and from ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who have been admitted to Jerusalem hospitals. The coronavirus cabinet approved the Health Ministry's controversial proposal that would boost the fines for violating COVID-19 health regulations.
This commentary by Amira Hass stresses that the dire economic situation of Palestinians may be more worrisome than the pandemic itself. West Bank and Gaza residents have chalked up relatively low rates of illness and death, hence the noticeable complacency. But the toll the pandemic and Israel’s tough policies is taking on their pockets seems incurable.
Thousands took part in a mass Friday prayer service at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City, in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, after a permitted protest against French President Emmanuel Macron's recent remarks on Islam. In the days leading up to the demonstration, organizers called on Muslims through social media to participate in the event. The Jerusalem police knew in advance about the organizations' intention to hold a mass prayer and demonstration at the site.
Israel backtracked on granting police police unrestricted access to COVID contact tracing data for use in criminal investiagtions. Instead the Justice Ministry seeks to allow epidemiological investigators to contact the police on their own initiative if they suspect a “serious crime.”
November 3 Occupied territory
The hard numbers: Looking at Palestinian COVID-19 positivity rates and zone in on an isolated date this week, on November 3, for example, the Palestinian ministry of health announced test results for 4,230 Palestinians, of whom 633 tested positive, which means the positivity rate for November 3 was around 15%. (US is 7.1%) Most of the new cases are in Gaza, where 36% of all active cases are located. In the last few weeks high school students returned to in-person instruction and Gaza began scaling back a nearly two-month lockdown. The new increase in cases is apparent uptick following Gaza’s relative re-opening.
Worldometer (data source interpreted by Mondoweiss)
November 3 Israel
Between 56 to 73 Palestinian prisoners at Gilboa Prison in central Israel tested positive for the coronavirus, in addition to five more who will be retested after receiving "borderline" results. The infected ward mostly houses Hamas prisoners and has been isolated. The rest of the prison complex is also closed off and only staff may enter or exit. According to the prison administration, the prisoners are all doing well and most of them are asymptomatic. The prisoners, in turn, charged that they were infected by one of the wardens and that the prison service failed to stem the spread of the disease. They are refusing to leave their cells and threatened to take action if they do not get appropriate medical care. Palestinian prisoners in other Israeli jails have threatened that any death from the disease would cause a flare-up, and not just inside the wards, leading the prison administration to ramp up its security measures. Several prisoners associated with Fatah were quarantined in another prison in Israel's north after coming into contact with some of the infected prisoners in Gilboa.
November 4 Gaza
The increase in COVID-19 infections is placing tremendous pressure on the health system and clinical capacity in governmental hospitals.
The Director of the Gaza-European Hospital for treating coronavirus patients, told reporters in Gaza that the hospital is almost full of COVID-19 patients, adding that the number increases every day.
"The hospital's maximum capacity is to treat 500 patients, and we have only 100 beds designated for critical cases."
November 4 West Bank
In the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, more Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) lost their homes in the first 10 months of 2020 alone than in any full year since 2016. As a result of Israel’s policy, 798 Palestinians have already lost their homes in 2020, including 404 minors who lived in 218 homes – compared to 677 Palestinians in all of 2019, 397 in 2018 and 521 in 2017.
Israeli authorities also demolished 301 Palestinian non-residential structures and infrastructure facilities in the first ten months of 2020. This includes humanitarian infrastructure such as water cisterns and pipes and electricity grids, which are crucial to sanitation and health at this time.
November 4 Israel
Ex-colleagues have few negatives to say about Israel’s new coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash, but his departure from a major health maintenance organization came with allegations of management problems and even a lack of vision.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Reshet's health council that it would have been better to compensate shop owners rather than to reopen stores, as the government will be doing. He added, "What's killing us is populism and demands to reopen everything. This is how we bring the country into a third lockdown."
Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center has ordered 1.5 million doses of a Russian vaccine against the coronavirus, hospital director Zeev Rotstein. Rotstein added that the hospital will give the Health Ministry all necessary data about the vaccine this week, with the goal of obtaining a permit to administer it to Israelis.
More than 70 Palestinian prisoners have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, in the overcrowded Gilboa prison in northern Israel. The Palestinian Prisoners Club said the majority of infected prisoners showed symptoms of the illness since last week, including fevers, but that prison authorities “acted as if it was a regular flu.” The group warned that the number of confirmed cases may continue to rise as more prisoners are tested.
Saeb Erekat continues hospitalization with coronavirus now in critical condition in Israel.
November 5 Israel
Israel is promoting a new way of tracking its citizens’ movements to determine who has been in contact with confirmed patients. This app, it was announced, would serve businesses.
Alongside the Shin Bet app and the Health Ministry’s Hamagen app, the ministry is now developing a system called Ramzor La’asakim (“traffic light for businesses Its purpose is to “provide information to businesses and individuals about the level of risk and thereby curtail the chain of infection.” A hint to what the app will likely include, however, appeared in an opinion released two weeks ago by Israel’s privacy watchdog, the Privacy Protection Authority. This opinion said the goal is to force people to install a tracking app by requiring them to scan a QR code as a condition of entering public areas.
November 6 Occupied territories & Israel
69,181 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 61,033 recoveries; 583 deaths
Of those who tested positive, 49,207 are in the West Bank, 11,955 in East Jerusalem, and 8,019 in Gaza
318,402 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19, 306,890 recoveries, 2,644 deaths
After seven weeks of declining COVID-19 infections across the occupied Palestinian territory, this week marked an increase in active cases for the first time since mid-September, and comes just weeks after students returned to in-person instruction. There are around 750 more active cases today spread across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem than there were two weeks ago.
The sea change definitively came on November 2 when 715 Palestinians tested positive. This was the first time numbers of new cases were that high since September 17. It’s a little early to determine if the trend will continue, but anecdotally we can see Gaza is creeping towards capacity at hospitals.
October 25-31, 2020
October 25 East Jerusalem
The greater the incidence of infection, the less likely it is that the population counts on the authorities or that it trusts them. The sharp decline in the number of cases in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which in the current second wave of the pandemic went from being coded “red” by the Health Ministry – the most serious situation – to orange and then to best-rated green – was therefore a welcome surprise. And it happened before many other communities. The Israeli army’s Home Front Command has worked with the East Jerusalem community to curb the spread of the virus in most Palestinian neighborhoods, but not on the other side of the separation barrier.
October 25 Israel
Israel announced that clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine will begin next week. The cabinet extended the current lockdown, as pandemic czar Ronni Gamzu warned that too few tests could hamper the exit strategy. Netanyahu said funding was not available to split school classes into smaller groups.
Elementary school classes in first through fourth grades will reopen partially the coronavirus cabinet decided, in line with the Health Ministry’s recommendation. First and second graders will attend school for only half a week, as the government says it cannot afford to hire the extra staffers needed to divide them into smaller groups. Third and fourth graders will study in “capsules,” meaning they will attend school five days a week, divided into smaller groups.
The Israeli cabinet wants to give the police unrestricted access to the information it collects from the contact tracing of coronavirus patients, for use in criminal investigations. This information may include details given to the Health Ministry as a result of tracking by the Shin Bet security service, even though current law forbids this.
October 26 West Bank & Israel
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu told the cabinet that it would be impossible to continue easing the lockdown if the number of COVID-19 tests is less than 50,000 a day. This is because a lower number of tests cannot provide a reliable enough picture of the spread of the infection.
The data that Health Ministry officials will present to the cabinet will also relate to the spilling over of COVID-19 infection from the Palestinian Authority. Health Ministry data show that some 100,000 Palestinian workers move every day between the PA and Israel, as well as many Israelis who frequently visit in the PA for business purposes, events and entertainment. The potential measures to deal with this problem include issuing a travel advisory about visiting cities with high levels of infection in the Palestinian territories, isolation for those who return from red areas there, and sample testing of Palestinian workers, which would be the responsibility of employers, the Home Front Command, Health Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
October 26 Israel
The Israeli Institute for Biological Research, the Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry announced that the institute is ready to start clinical trials on a potential coronavirus vaccine. The three-phase human trials are set to start on November 1 and last for several months. The researchers at the government institute said that so far, they have produced over 25,000 doses of the experimental vaccine, which has now been approved for human trials, for the first two stages of the clinical tests. The institute has just finished manufacturing enough of the material for the vaccine for another one million doses.
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman released his interim report on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, calling it a “special” report and an essential tool for correcting the mistakes “as soon as possible.” But the report presents a picture of the situation as of two months ago – so that many of its findings are no longer relevant. In addition, the comptroller focuses only on implementation of the measures to fight the pandemic – and has avoided any criticism of the way the crisis was managed or on the decision-making processes in the government and professional forums.
October 27 Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have decided to appoint Professor Nachman Ash as the new coronavirus czar, replacing Ronni Gamzu, a joint statement by the Prime Minister's Office and Health Ministry said. Ash, until now the director of the division of medicine for the Maccabi HMO and a member of the department of health systems management at Ariel University, will begin training for the new position. Ash, 59, specializes in internal medicine, and has had a long career as a military doctor, and served as the head doctor of the IDF from 2007 to 2011.
Saeb Erekat, who was infected with Coronavirus three weeks ago, continues to be hospitalized in an Israel hospital. He is intubated, on ECMO (which functions as a mechanical lung), has now developed a fungal infection and continues to deteriorate.
October 28 Occupied territories
“The Palestinian population has a rate of blindness which is ten times as high as in the West,” according to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Untreated cataracts account for 38% of blindness in the territories, while diabetic retinopathy accounts for 24%. Almost 18,000 people in the Palestinian territories have been unable to access eye health services since April as a result of COVID-19, according to the only charitable provider of expert
eye care in the territories. Many have missed vital follow-up consultations, diagnoses, and treatments while 1,200 sight-saving surgical procedures have been canceled, some of them time-sensitive.
October 28 Israel
Israel’s hospitals are beginning to see long-term effects of COVID-19. Three men in their 30s and 40s were recently released from Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem after being hospitalized there for several weeks in critical condition, hovering between life and death. The three were infected with the coronavirus several months ago and subsequently recovered. However, many weeks later, they came down with inflammation that affected many vital systems. Experts say such effects are surprisingly different than long-term effects of other viruses in the coronavirus family, or than other viral infections.
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said Israel achieved its target of fewer than 1,000 COVID cases a week in order to reopen the economy. The R number, representing the rate of the disease's spread, has dropped below 1 to 0.8. The next phase of return to normal includes reopening schools for the lower grades and reopening non-essential businesses under certain restrictions. Gamzu noted that Arab communities, where the R number is closer to 1, are still at risk of becoming coronavirus hotspots. He urged residents to get tested for the virus. Mandatory quarantine will be shortened to 10 days from the current 14 days, pending approval. According to Gamzu, quarantine could be cut short on condition of two negative tests – one taken on days 3-5 of the quarantine period and another on days 9-10.
October 29 Israel
The Israeli government extended the pandemic state of emergency by 60 days, until January 3. National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabbat and coronavirus czar Ronni Ganzu said that although the criteria for further easing restrictions had been reached, some caution was still necessary. One reason was that the rate of infection has been going up, that the rate of illness in the Arab community is alarming, and that testing has still not reached the expected level.
As the pandemic rages, some in the ultra-Orthodox community continue to cram into yeshivas to study, flouting the warnings of health officials, and to hold mass events. The ultra-Orthodox community knows all too well the dangers of COVID-19. There are two main concepts underlying this conduct: though studying Torah may lead to death in a time of a pandemic, its importance is so great that the price is worth it; and the faith that while congregating may be dangerous to some, this is not the case for those studying in yeshivas for they are protected from danger, including deadly viruses, by virtue of their Torah study.
October 30 Gaza
The Gaza Strip is slowly and gingerly emerging from another full pandemic lockdown. But the pain is far from over, especially for those suffering chronic illnesses in an area in which the health sector has been systematically undermined over 13 years of Israeli blockade and is now staggering under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past weeks, parts of the Gaza Strip were completely closed off by curfews that saw movement banned and health centers closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This has deprived chronically ill patients from accessing regular checkups and treatment. In 2017, the last year for which statistics are available, there were more than 147,000 chronically ill patients in the Gaza Strip.
October 30 Occupied territories
In Gaza, lockdown measures implemented almost two months ago will continue to be lifted this week in schools and mosques after restrictions were first eased two weeks ago. The highest number of total active cases continued to be in Hebron. A general overnight curfew remained in place across Gaza, banning travel between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Palestinian entrepreneur Heba al-Hindi designed a commercial sanitizing station that performs dual functions. The six-foot device is used outside of restaurants and places of business, and flashes a red signal if a patron using the machine is running a fever.
October 30 Israel & Middle East
As of October 30, Israel had 11,362 active cases; 2,514 people have died. In the West Bank, there were 4,522 active cases and 512 deaths, and in Gaza 2,335 active cases and 32 deaths. The number of reported coronavirus cases went over 3 million in the Middle East, according to an Associated Press count, with the true number likely even higher. Across the Mideast, there were over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities and 2.5 million recoveries.
October 31 Israel
Israel's outgoing coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said he was concerned about a potential significant rise in infections in Druze communities following the mass funeral of a prominent sheikh, and said that anyone among the thousands who attended should be tested “in a few days.” Sheikh Abu Zain Aldin Hassan Halabi, one of the most distinguished religious leaders in the Druze community, was laid to rest in Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights after followers snatched his body from an Israeli hospital that refused to hand over his body because of COVID restrictions.
Gamzu also said that enforcement of coronavirus restrictions would be stepped up in Arab communities in the coming week, stating that the government plans to provide additional budgets to Arab localities to deal with the pandemic. Figures from the Health Ministry and monitoring groups show that some 30 % of the new confirmed cases over the past week were in Arab communities.
This past week, the Health Ministry stopped releasing statistics about communities that have 15 or fewer cases, saying their publication would result in the infected individuals’ identities becoming publicly known, while the monitoring groups say this makes it more difficult to track the spread of the virus.
October 18 – 24, 2020
Focus on health disparities and COVID-19 in the US
Call for papers: Any of you in practice, teaching or doing research, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Center for Health Security is planning an upcoming special feature in their online journal Health Security on Systemic Racism and Health Security During COVID-19. The opening paragraph in the call for papers (for this open access edition planned for May/June 2021) states the issues:
"The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has substantially damaged population health, social fabrics, economies, and health systems across the world. In the United States, many of these costs are overwhelmingly borne by racially marginalized populations. These groups report disproportionately higher levels of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality as a result of ineffective response efforts and decades-long failures to address longstanding inequities in access to healthcare and other social safety net programs. Peer-reviewed research that examines the root causes of racial inequities in COVID-19-associated morbidity and mortality—and the systems that perpetuate them—is urgently needed."
Rise in percent of Latinx deaths from COVID: The MMWR published by the CDC (10/23/20) reported data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) on COVID deaths between August and October, 2020. Among other findings, the data show an increase in percent of deaths among Latinx persons. Percent of total Covid deaths among the Latinx population in the prior reporting period had been 16.3%, from August through October, that percentage rose to 26.4%. The shift of COVID burden from the earlier months in the Northeastern US to the West and South (with higher Latinx population) over the summer and early fall may account for this rise in mortality among these communities.
Striking Racial Disparity in COVID deaths in the pediatric population: Between February 12 and July 31, 2020 there were 121 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. among those < 21 years of age. the racial breakdown is as follows: 45% were Latinx, 29% were non-Hispanic Black (Black) persons, and 4% were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons. MMWR, 9/18/2020. This bulletin reviews underlying pre-existing conditions and other factors that impact mortality, even among the very young.
Back to Palestine/Israel
A reminder that the five-part video series produced by Mondoweiss on COVID-19 in Palestine is now complete, and the five episodes are all available. Palestine correspondent Yumna Patel explored 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 Israeli occupation.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel released its report Shortage as Policy: The first 100 days of the coronavirus crisis in Israel. The report describes and analyzes the Israeli government’s policy during the first hundred days of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and its impact on all population groups living in it or under its control: status-less individuals, prisoners, residents of Israel’s socio-economic periphery and Palestinians in the OPT.
The Israeli government’s response to the coronavirus crisis was shaped by three deep trends that have marked its policy and practice in the last few decades: accelerated privatization and underfunding social services, marginalization of disempowered populations, and the institution of centralized, non-transparent policy that disproportionately limits rights and freedoms.
During the coronavirus crisis, the public reaped the fruits of the short-sighted policies successive Israeli governments have followed for decades: Lack of preparedness and understaffing in public health services, family clinics and hospitals. The need to “flatten the curve” with an underequipped health care infrastructure led to severe damage to the economy and an equally severe blow to the availability and quality of health services during the corona pandemic.
The increased infection rates in vulnerable communities originates in the exclusion of certain populations from the National Health Insurance Law, budgetary erosion of public health services and the inequitable private medicine that developed as a result, as well as lack of oversight from the Ministry of Health on institutions that influence living conditions for disempowered populations. All of these resulted in the creation of ‘bubbles’ of (no)-health, which is destructive also in normal times, but during a pandemic mean that the health of everyone is put at risk and nobody is safe.
The country’s lack of preparedness led to disproportionate limitations on rights and freedoms, without transparency, parliamentary oversight or proper public discourse.
Gaza youth keep corona virus diaries: now published at We Are Not Numbers.
October 18 Israel
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat transferred to Israeli hospital for coronavirus treatment. The spokesperson for Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem near Jerusalem, issued a statement regarding the status of Saeb Erekat who was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit earlier in the day. According to the statement on the evening of October 17, as of "the past few hours, he is in a difficult but stable condition." He is said to have arrived to the hospital "in critical condition" and in need of "high-flow oxygen."
In Israel preschools reopened and movement restrictions were canceled as COVID lockdown eased. Restrictions continued in ‘red’ cities, but Haredim reopened schools in hotspots in violation of policy. Israel’s positive test rate fell to 3%.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who was transferred to an Israel hospital suffering from the coronavirus, was placed on a ventilator after his condition deteriorated. He is in critical condition, in a medically induced coma and also being treated for a bacterial infection.
Middle East Eye
October 19 Occupied territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria
Data and graphs on covid 19 from UNRWA reveal that none of the above regions have successfully flattened the curve of confirmed infections
October 19 Israel
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat was in critical condition with Covid-19 and was placed on a ventilator, the Israeli hospital treating him said. On Sunday, the 65-year-old was rushed to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem from his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank. His condition was described as "serious but stable," and he was given oxygen. On Monday morning, the hospital said Mr Erekat's condition had deteriorated and was "now defined as critical."
The Israeli coronavirus lockdown only bolstered anti-Netanyahu protests, leading tens of thousands more Israelis to join the protests - - which resumed with renewed strength and new tactics.
Israeli coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu told the Knesset Health Committee that the mandatory quarantine period would soon be shortened from two weeks to 12 days. People can leave quarantine two days early so long as they take a coronavirus test 10 days into the isolation period, Gamzu explained. The committee chairman, Likud MK Haim Katz, told Gamzu that "every day in quarantine has a direct effect on the economy." He continued, "Health comes first and foremost, but if we can save quarantine days, that would help the economy."
Saeb Erekat, 65, Secretary-General of the PLO, was reportedly in critical condition after contracting COVID-19 earlier this month. After announcing that he contracted the virus on October 8th, the veteran Palestinian negotiator was moved from his home in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho, to the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. According to a statement from the hospital spokesperson, Erekat “arrived in serious condition” and was put on a ventilator and placed in a medically induced coma. In 2017, Erekat underwent a lung transplant in the United States, leaving him with a weakened immune system. Years earlier in 2012 Erekat suffered from a heart attack, making him an extremely high-risk coronavirus patient.
Israeli Knesset members condemned the decision to admit Saeb Erekat to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, saying that Israel should have demanded Palestinian political concessions in exchange for his treatment. In the wake of Erekat’s hospitalization, amid condolences from regional and international leaders, one of the loudest responses to his COVID-19 diagnosis has been from Israelis themselves, many of whom don’t believe Erekat should be receiving treatment in an Israeli hospital.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has sent a series of letters to Israeli education and communications authorities demanding they provide computers and internet access so that some 150,000 Palestinian Arab schoolchildren stuck at home due to COVID-19 are able to connect to online remote learning systems together with their peers.
After the ultra-orthodox rebellion, Netanyahu looks weaker than ever. Holding an early election, when the entire Israeli
public is witnessing how he’s being held hostage by a merciless ultra-Orthodox leadership, is now unthinkable. The Haredi insistence on ignoring the government’s lockdown instructions and endangering their community, and all of Israel’s population, in further spreading COVID-19 is above all an act of belligerence.
October 21 Israel
Israeli pandemic czar announced the shortening of quarantine to 12 days and availability of free COVID-19 testing without referrals. Ultra-orthodox locations were removed from the list of restricted areas as the Education Ministry said their hands were tied over Haredi school violations. Senior PLO official Saeb Erekat remained in critical condition.
Doctors treating senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat for COVID-19 have performed a bronchostomy to examine the condition of his respiratory system, according to his daughter.
Salam Erekat said on Twitter on Wednesday that her father remained intubated and connected to an ECMO machine, which does the work of the lungs by transferring oxygen into the blood.
The Israeli coronavirus cabinet postponed its debate on reopening schools, in the face of disagreements between the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry. The pandemic czar said the cabinet seeks “to bring children back to school as safely as possible,” while ultra-Orthodox schools continue to operate unimpeded while flouting restrictions.
Ahead of the school debate, an Israeli government report warned that children could be superspreaders. Israel’s coronavirus cabinet then decided not to further ease restrictions and to meet again next week to discuss further steps in accordance with updated morbidity data. At the meeting, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz called on ministers to allow takeaways from all businesses, as well as permit small businesses, including high street shops, hairdressers and beauty salons, to resume their activities on Sunday, and facilitate the return of first to fourth-graders to school on November 1.
Senior officials in the State Prosecutor's Office have reprimanded Israel Police's top brass, who they say avoid enforcing criminal statutes against ultra-Orthodox violators of coronavirus regulations, arguing that selective enforcement could lead citizens to complain of discrimination. Data obtained by Haaretz shows that only four indictments have been handed down for “an action that is liable to spread illness.” Two were issued during the first wave in the spring, and two others during the latest wave of infection.
COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of Israel’s psychiatric services. People feel shaky but are afraid of catching coronavirus in wards that don’t have room for them anyway. Their condition then deteriorates and is mirrored in the recent spike in involuntary commitments.
October 22 Israel
Israeli hospitals began closing and scaling back coronavirus wards following the decrease in confirmed cases, in a step that will allow them to reopen internal medicine wards ahead of the winter. However, the hospitals, like the Health Ministry, have not come out with official declarations about closing wards, both in order to avoid making overly hasty announcements and because the number of hospitalized cases is still considerable. The Jerusalem municipality will carry out a program for at-risk children, despite government regulations barring such gatherings. The program will assist some 5,000 school children who need educational and psychological support and will take place in small capsules, led by city social workers, psychologists and volunteers.
Scarred by Round One, Israel grapples with how fast to lift the COVID lockdown. The main concern is an expedited, unchecked exit, accompanied by pressure from interest groups, that could lead again to losing control over the virus. The army’s contact tracing system is nearly ready, but the problem lies with Israeli civilians.
To fight its ‘war’ on COVID-19, Israel is turning citizens into enemies in the name of ‘securitization.’ To live with the pandemic, Israel will have to stop transforming civilian issues into matters of national security, says Israeli sociologist Yagil Levy.
October 23 Gaza
Nihad al-Dabba, 58, from the Shujayia neighborhood of eastern Gaza City has little to do but wait for her children to die of a neuromuscular disease and the need for treatment that is unavailable in Gaza. For three months, Nihad has been trying to find a way for her son Emad, 31, and her daughter Miasar, 38, to return to the Hadassah hospital in Ein Kerem, outside Jerusalem. They are receiving dialysis in Gaza but the two were supposed to have traveled to Jerusalem at the end of May to have a tube implant that would make dialysis treatment possible again. The May surgeries were canceled as a result of the suspension of civil and security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in protest at Israel’s plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank. “In April I wasn’t able to travel because of COVID in Israel,” Nihad told The Electronic Intifada. “Now I’m trapped because of COVID here and because of the suspension of security coordination. I fear I will lose my children at any moment.”
October 23 Occupied territories & Israel
The latest figures on COVID-19 in Palestine/Israel:
61,183 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 53,925 recovered; 510 deaths
Of Palestinians who tested positive, 44,404 are in the West Bank; 11,604 are in East Jerusalem; 5,175 are in the Gaza Strip
308,840 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 290,130 recovered; 2,329 deaths
According to the UN, active Palestinian cases dropped almost 12% (from 7,597 to 6,703) between October 5 and 19. However, “The decline in active cases is partially attributed to the limited testing, driven by the shortage of testing kits, particularly in the West Bank: only Palestinians who are traveling and those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested.” Among Palestinians over half of the coronavirus cases have come from Hebron and East Jerusalem. Gaza represents around 28 percent of all cases, of which 85 percent come from Gaza City and the northern districts. The WHO said in its latest situation report that the Palestinian overall case fatality rate, or CFR, is .83%, which is quite low on the global scale. Despite over 1,000 new cases in Gaza this week, lockdown measures implemented seven weeks ago continue to be eased with more businesses and restaurants opening. A nighttime curfew is still in place across the region.
October 24 Israel
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s medical condition is worsening, according to the head of Hadassah University Medical Center, where he is being treated. “He remains connected to an ECMO machine to support his respiratory function,” a statement disseminated within the hospital said late Thursday. “His lung function has been reduced by the effect of COVID-19 infection, on the background of previous lung transplantation.
October 11 – October 17, 2020
We want to highlight the collection of articles recently published in the Journal of Palestine Studies. This introductory essay by Danya Qato, seeks to:
“contextualize[s] the special collection of papers on the pandemic and seeks to map the terrain of extant public health research on Palestine and the Palestinians. In addition, it is a contribution in Palestine studies to a nascent yet propulsive conversation that has been accelerated by Covid-19 on the erasure of structures of violence, including those of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, within the discipline of epidemiology. Using public health as an analytic, this essay asks us to consider foundational questions that have long been sidelined in the public health discourse on Palestine, including the implications for health and health research of eliding ongoing settler colonialism. Rather than ignoring and reproducing their violence, this essay seeks to tackle these questions head-on in an attempt to imagine a future public health research agenda that centers health, and not simply survivability, for all Palestinians.”
October 11 Occupied territories & Israel
Covid-19 reinfection was documented in Israel for the first time. Defying lockdown, retail chains planned to reopen as soon as next week. Israel saw another drop in new cases, but daily deaths were among the highest in the world. While the numbers point to an apparent decline in infections among the country's Arab population, experts on the Arab national health committee warned against complacency that could lead to a new rise in cases if guidelines aren't followed. According to official figures, 40 residents of Arab-majority communities died of the coronavirus last week, compared to a total of 10 deaths during the outbreak's first wave in the spring – and these numbers do not include cities with mostly mixed populations, meaning the number of recent deaths in the Arab population is likely higher.
The Israeli Health Ministry prepared to lift the nationwide lockdown, except for 14 ‘red’ towns with high case rates. In other areas restrictions on movement will end, preschools will reopen, and the private sector will be able to resume operations – with the exception of businesses serving the public in person. Knesset member Gideon Sa’ar of Netanyahu's Likud announced his resignation from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Saturday evening in protest over the claim that the panel was acting as a rubber stamp for government decisions.
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the PLO announced on Sunday night.
October 12 Gaza
People in Gaza are searching through rubbish to find food as Palestinians battle unprecedented levels of poverty, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has said. Across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere, Palestinian refugees are suffering at new depths because of the pandemic, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency chief, Philippe Lazzarini. “There is despair and hopelessness.” Referring to reports from UNRWA staff in Gaza, Lazzarini said, “More people are fighting to provide one or two meals a day to their families.”
October 12 Israel
Israel's Health Ministry officially told the Justice Ministry it opposed extending the emergency order restricting demonstrations, even if there was no immediate easing of the country's coronavirus lockdown. The announcement, made in coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, as first reported by Israel's Army Radio, came as the Israeli cabinet was expected to discuss possible measures to loosen the lockdown.
Israeli police issued far fewer fines for mass prayers than for other covid violations. Only 171 tickets were issued for prayer violations nationwide, according to police data. Of these, 91 were issued by the Tel Aviv District, which includes Bnei Brak. In contrast, 53,514 tickets were issued around the country for entering a public area, 1,234 for opening a business in violation of the rules and 899 for refusing to disperse a gathering.
October 13 West Bank, Israel & US
Two months ago, a group of 70 evangelical volunteers were granted special permission to enter Israel so they could help out with the grape harvest at several settlements in the West Bank.
Neither Hayovel, the organization that represents them, nor the Interior Ministry was willing to explain to Haaretz at the time how these volunteers obtained such permission when most noncitizens have been barred from entering Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Founded 15 years ago, Hayovel has brought some 3,000 Christian volunteers to the West Bank settlements over the years, mostly from the US. They’re housed on a purpose-built campus on the outskirts of the Har Bracha settlement, near the Palestinian city of Nablus. Some of the volunteers work in the vineyards that belong to the Tura winery in Har Bracha, while others work in the wineries in the nearby settlements of Psagot and Shiloh.
October 13 Israel
The Israeli government told the High Court that it does not intend to extend the "special state of emergency" that allows it to limit protests. Earlier, the Health Ministry told the Justice Ministry they would also not recommend renewing the order restricting demonstrations, even if there is no immediate easing of the lockdown. The announcement was apparently made in coordination with the Prime Minister's office, Army Radio reported.
Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv informed the Health Ministry it would no longer accept coronavirus patients requiring full nursing care due to the overload created in wards that treat those infected with the virus. Active cases in Israel kept declining as death toll passed 2,000.
Like Trump, Netanyahu has sabotaged Israel’s war on Covid-19, and everyone knows it. Millions of Americans can replace their president on November 3, but all Israel needs are a few brave politicians – who are nowhere to be found.
Israel’s Coronavirus cabinet convened to discuus the rate of infection and stages of a routine exit strategy, but deferred discussion of easing the latest lockdown until a later meeting. Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz, 67, was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus, but hid the fact from the public. Although Netanyahu implored the ultra-Orthodox to observe lockdown restrictions, a number of Talmud Torah schools opened their doors. Israel’s fashion, food, and retail chains also announced they would reopen their stores at the beginning of next week, even in closed malls, violating lockdown measures which only permit opening essential businesses.
Coronavirus infection rates in Arab towns has plummeted over the last six weeks, and the number of “red” cities where infection remains high has consequently fallen from 32 to just four, according to data from the Arab community’s emergency committee. Some hospital officials warn against taking the numbers at face value, saying many are avoiding testing.
Many geriatric patients are being forced to remain in coronavirus wards, thereby increasing the burden on general hospitals, because nursing homes don’t have enough beds to provide them with post-hospital care, said a report released on Tuesday. The report was prepared by the so-called barometer task force, which monitors the state of Israel’s hospitals to ensure that they won’t become overburdened.
October 14, Gaza
Unlike almost every other public health dimension, Gaza is performing better on COVID-19 containment than the West Bank. The multiple levels of isolation and lockdown have certainly been one component of what has so far been a low mortality rate in Gaza. Among other effects, the restriction on movement has also meant that laborers from Gaza do not cross into Israel for work and the population is also overwhelmingly young and less likely to die. Nonetheless, to cope with even baseline public health requirements, Gaza needs tens of thousands of housing units, a doubling of electricity provision, a significant investment in water and sanitation infrastructure, and hundreds more schools and health centers. Many political barriers remain.
October 14 Israel
Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, will begin tracking immediate family members of coronavirus carriers suspected of lying or not cooperating in their contact tracing. According to the IDF Home Front Command’s Alon task force for contact tracing, about 30% of confirmed carriers do not cooperate with the contact tracing investigation, or insist they were not in contact with anyone in the days prior to their diagnosis.
Violent clashes during Israeli police raid on wedding spark criticism from ultra-orthodox leaders. Video from incident, in violation of COVID lockdown orders, shows arrested man bleeding. Bride's sister says brother assaulted, while police say participants threw glass bottles and suspect injured by fall
October 15 West Bank
A Jewish Israeli lawyer living in the West Bank with his Palestinian wife and their children reflects on the impact of the pandemic on Palestinian children whose families face constant threat of eviction or losing social services, including health care. Along with their parents, children in the West Bank must be prepared to present evidence of residency and face interviews with the Israeli Interior Ministry.
October 15 Israel
The coronavirus cabinet was scheduled to meet to discuss strategy for ending the lockdown that began September 25. Infections rates have begun to decline, and pressure for an accelerated exit has been mounting. One question expected to spark conflict was whether to maintain the lockdown in communities with continued high infection rates, called “red” under the “traffic light” plan. Most are ultra-Orthodox, and this move would meet resistance and increased pressure on the prime minister and members of the special cabinet.
Netanyahu declared Israel’s latest lockdown a great success and the coronavirus cabinet approved several measures to ease the lockdown, which began on September 25, as total confirmed cases in Israel rose above 300,000.
October 16 Gaza
Israel’s crippling 13-year blockade of Gaza has resulted in regular electricity shortages and internet disruption, compounding the education challenges. On March 5, the Palestinian presidency declared a state of emergency, which included closing all educational institutions, as part of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. At the beginning of September, the Gaza-based government decided to reopen the schools. However, the detection of COVID-19 in the community for the first time led to another shutdown. There was not enough time to distribute books to the pupils. According to the Palestinian Centre for Bureau Statistics, 29% of families in Gaza have only one laptop in their household. In addition, statistics show 73% of Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip have basic internet service in their house, while 78% households possess at least one smartphone. Israel still bans 3G data service in Gaza, which would make life easier for pupils and their parents to follow lessons and send homework to teachers.
October 16 Occupied territories
As previously reported, Palestine was accepted into a vaccine accelerator program by COVAX and Gavi, where vaccines will be distributed to vulnerable populations free of charge. This week the World Health Organization confirmed around 20% of Palestinians will get the vaccine under the Gavi program, with a focus on those over 65, people with preconditions, and health care workers. Gavi was able to solicit around $1 billion in donations to fund the global vaccine distribution project for poor countries.
October 16 Israel
The ministerial committee for restricted areas unanimously authorized the Health Ministry’s recommendations to declare red cities as restricted areas, meaning that the eased restrictions announced earlier will not apply there. The declaration is valid for 4 days, from October 18 until October 21. The coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Roni Noma also released a statement expressing “great satisfaction” over the significant changes in the behavior of the residents and mayors of red cities.
Badly ill with coronavirus, some ultra-orthodox in Israel choose home care. Health experts say the treatment offered by a religious charity is a gamble. It has also fed concern about
a general distrust of government among the ultra-Orthodox community, which appears to be increasingly going it alone in handling the pandemic and many other aspects of daily life. The charity does not report coronavirus cases to the authorities, which may be skewing the national virus data on which policymakers base their decisions.
October 17 Occupied territories
Update on coronavirus statistics in Palestine as of October 17 in numbers and graphs. [Note numbers do not exactly match WHO.]
October 17 Israel
Perspectives from Israeli doctors who oppose lockdown and the government strategy for dealing with COVID-19. An increasing number of senior physicians are convinced that Israel needs to switch gears in its handling of the pandemic.
Netanyahu announces lockdown exit strategy and ultraorthodox religious schools fully reopened in defiance of regulation. Dozens of protesters, among them traders from the textile industry and other self-employed, demonstrated against the lockdown by burning their merchandise on Jaffa Road in Tel Aviv. Two Israeli universities, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have decided to require students keep their computer cameras on during online classes – even during those where attendance isn’t mandatory.
October 4 – October 10, 2020
Disparities and other thoughts on Covid 19…
Throughout its 208-year history, The New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. The world’s most prestigious medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate.
In an editorial published on October 7, the journal said the Trump administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that it had “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The journal did not explicitly endorse former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, but that was the only possible inference, other scientists noted.
The NEJM.’s editors join those of another influential journal, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Mr. Biden.
Back to Israel/Palestine….
"This essay explores representations of Palestinian physicians in the Israeli health-care system during the Covid-19 pandemic and the dynamics that have played out in that system during the public health emergency from the perspective of a Palestinian physician. It argues that the health-care system, an essential pillar and infrastructural foundation of the settler-colonial project, is naively imagined as an apolitical, neutral sphere. As the site of a metaphorical battlefield against Covid-19, it has been window-dressed as an arena for brotherhood between Israeli Palestinians and Jews, and fantasized about as a gateway to political gain or equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCIs). Throughout the process, settler militarism, settler symbols, and settler domination have continued to be normalized."
Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. 49 No. 4,
October 4 Israel
Ayman Odeh, chair of the Joint List of Arab parties, tested positive for the coronavirus. Israeli hospitals were overburdened, with intensive care resources running out. Thirteen people were arrested in Bnei Brak after police attempted to disperse worshipers. Israel extended the latest lockdown until October 14, and the leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox tested positive.
An Israeli writer describes the second lockdown as a “watered-down” version of the first, unlikely to succeed as a discouraged populace seeks work-arounds.
Israeli police arrested over thirty worshipers during clashes in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods as they tried to enforce coronavirus lockdown regulations over the weekend. Riots take place in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem and Betar Ilit, as police struggle to enforce coronavirus lockdown regulations on ultra-Orthodox towns.
October 5 East Jerusalem
Israeli authorities have announced a temporary freeze on home demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem, following legal pressure amidst a rise in the demolition of Palestinian homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first eight months of 2020 Israel has demolished 112 Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem, resulting in the displacement of 261 Palestinians, including children, while 467 people were “harmed as a result of partial demolitions of structures by Israeli authorities.” According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Israeli government will be freezing demolitions “across the country,” a move that the government had reportedly taken at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis back in March. After COVID-19 death rates declined inside Israel during the summer months, Adalah noted that Israel “amped” its demolitions of Palestinian homes back up. While the temporary freeze applies to East Jerusalem, it makes no mention of the occupied West Bank, where Israeli demolitions are commonplace in Area C — the more than 60% of the territory under full Israeli control.
October 5 Israel
Israel’s rate of coronavirus infection – which is among the highest in the world – may be slowing down, according to data from the past few days. It will take another week or two to see if these preliminary indications reflect a real change. Health Ministry officials were cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a slowdown, but analysis of the data also showed an ongoing rise in the spread of the disease in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Israeli police allow thousands to attend mass funeral of ultra-Orthodox rabbi. At least another week will be needed for further decisions on lockdown. The first indictment was issued against a coronavirus patient allegedly violating quarantine.
Israeli coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu has proposed that Israel not end its national lockdown until it is down to 2,000 new cases a day and an R number, the average number of people each infected person will go on to infect, of 0.8. Over the past week, new cases have averaged two to four times higher than the proposed level.
Israel's Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who announced that she had tested positive for the coronavirus overnight Saturday, hid the fact that she violated lockdown restrictions and visited a synagogue on Yom Kippur from Health Ministry officials. She later apologized, “It’s possible I made an error in judgment.”
An Israeli news report revealed the army’s Home Front Command was seeking current and former security agents with expertise in ‘Arab society and culture’; The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights (Adalah) warned: “Use of secretive security agencies in civilian crisis pushes us down a very short road to repression and violation of basic rights.” Adalah sent an urgent letter demanding that Israel block the military’s recruitment of current and former agents from the Shin Bet security agency in order to gather intelligence on Palestinian citizens of Israel as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. Adalah’s Dr. Hassan Jabareen stated, “If Israel’s government really wants to stop the spread of COVID-19 among Arab citizens, it must see us as equal citizens.”
October 6 Israel
Since the coronavirus erupted in Israel, there have been almost three times as many calls to the domestic violence hotline as there were during the same months last year. According to official ministry data, the hotline received 6,615 calls from March through September of 2020, compared to 2,286 during the same months in 2019. Sources involved in the issue said the number had exceeded their most pessimistic predictions. The Social Affairs Ministry has decided to open two new shelters for abused women and permanent apartments for violent men.
Despite Israel's surging coronavirus infection rates, the Jerusalem police allowed several radical ultra-Orthodox communities in the city to hold mass events on condition that there would be no public documentation, according to two Haredi sources who spoke to Haaretz.
For the first time in many weeks, signs that the spread of the coronavirus is moderating a bit in Israel have begun to appear. The rates of positive tests have fallen to around 10 percent for both Arabs and Jews, yet the rate remains very high among the ultra-Orthodox, at 25 percent. For the population as a whole, the rate has fallen to 11 to 12 percent, from a peak of more than 15 percent a week ago.
Sixty-five% of Israelis think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responding poorly to the coronavirus crisis, a Channel 12 News poll released on Tuesday shows. Thirty-one % of respondents say they support Netanyahu's response so far. The poll also asked Israelis how they would vote if elections were held now. Netanyahu's Likud party, the survey says, would get 26 out of 120 Knesset seats, down three from Channel 12's previous poll two weeks ago, and 10 from Likud's current Knesset representation of 36 seats.
The Israeli army Home Front Command HQ in Ramle is confronting a new enemy: the coronavirus. Its recently established contact-tracing unit is charged with reaching out to1,500 potential virus carriers every day. Israel is the first to task contact tracing to its army. It’s estimated that the best result will yield 70 % of an infected person’s contacts. Legal questions have already arisen regarding the IDF’s request to access data collated by the Shin Bet security service and other government agencies on citizens’ movements and finances to carry out the task.
October 7 Occupied territories
According to a new survey from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), some 54% of Palestinian workers in the West Bank were out of work during the first lockdown from early March until May 25th. The survey found that during the early pandemic months, 80% of the main earners in Palestinian families experienced a decrease in the workload — a phenomenon that PCBS was felt even more in the West Bank compared to Gaza. For those who managed to avoid unemployment, 52% were forced to work without receiving any of their wages during the lockdown period — a trend that primarily affected the private sector, as many private companies refused to abide by labor laws, with little to no enforcement of those laws by government officials.
One of the most revealing findings was made with regard to online distanced learning, which a vast majority of Palestinian students across the oPt have been subjected to as a result of widespread school closures which were enforced just weeks, sometimes even days, after schools were reopened in September. According to the survey, 49% of Palestinian households said that their children were being deprived of access to online learning, due to unavailability of necessities like internet and required technologies like smart phones or computer. For those who have been able to participate in online learning, PCBS said, 40% of households described the experience as “bad” and unable to fulfil their students’ needs.
October 7 Israel
Israeli government approves one-week extension to state of emergency while anti-gov't demonstrations take place amid lockdown. The prime minister’s wife violates lockdown, report says. First indictment was issued against a COVID patient allegedly violating quarantine. Police sought permission to enter private homes. Israel currently has 63,381 active cases; 1,797 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 6,193 active cases and 379 deaths, and in Gaza 1,403 active cases and 23 deaths. The Health Ministry announced an operation in which coronavirus patients are being transferred from overcrowded hospitals to others that are less crowded, but hospitals are reportedly less than cooperative.
October 8 Occupied territories
The Ministry of Health announced today it lost the first practicing Palestinian doctor to Covid-19 since the pandemic made its way to Palestine. Doctor Harb Radwan (51), from the town of Kharas in Hebron, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Al-Ahli Hospital. He was infected with the virus while working to save the lives of others. The Palestinian Doctors Syndicate mourned Radwan, and said that “his death is a loss to humanity.” Last month in Gaza, the retired doctor Mohammed Abu Harbid (68) died from the disease. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that the pandemic killed a number of Palestinian doctors abroad, in Russia, Spain, and Italy.
October 8 Occupied territories & Israel
Dr. Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, "has been infected with COVID-19," the Secretariat of the PLO Executive Committee announced via Twitter on Thursday night.
Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi violated coronavirus health regulations this week by hosting members of his extended family at his home. Nadav Argaman, the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, apologized for violating lockdown orders by hosting family members over the Sukkot holiday. Meanwhile, Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen has entered quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed patient while visiting with officers in the north.
The director of the Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak resigned, after he told Kan Public Radio that the Haredi community "was educated to receive everything and give nothing for years, and that [the rise in coronavirus infection] is one of the results.".
Three weeks after most classes have been suspended amid the lockdown, Israeli Education Ministry published its own data, showing that half of the new coronavirus infections among preschool through 12th grade students since the lockdown began, are from independent, ultra-Orthodox schools, which account for just 19% of the entire school population.
October 8 Israel
Israel’s Health Ministry assesses that 5.5 % of Israelis have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the results of antibody testing conducted between July and September on a sample of about 55,000 people across the country. According to the survey, Israel is therefore still very far from achieving so-called herd immunity, which, experts say, requires more than a third of the population to have been infected, at the very least.
The Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that it would authorize the spending of 940 million shekels ($275.9 million) for one-time grants to people who get disability allowances. The grant will be transferred to 261,000 people from the emergency budget for coping with the coronavirus. After the protests by the disabled in 2018, the government agreed to raise the disability allowances by 4.3 billion shekels in four increments by 2021. The next raise had been due in January, but the treasury said it couldn’t follow through because there was no state budget. The disabled complained that the state was reneging on its agreement, and even petitioned the High Court of Justice on the issue. The treasury said that since it couldn’t codify in law the raises it had planned, it would transfer the money as one-time grants until a budget was passed.
Thousands of Hasidim in their holiday finery, yeshiva students and curious residents rushed through the narrow streets of the Mea She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem. Many Haredi synagogues have closed their doors, in accordance with the lockdown guidelines. In Mea She’arim the atmosphere was definitely festive, as if the coronavirus hadn’t reached there. Women pushed babies in strollers and young children held their fathers’ hands, walking to synagogues from which deafening music poured. Face masks were a rare sight, marking their wearers as outsiders. The stares of residents said it all: You don’t belong.
October 9 West Bank
This is the fifth 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. The last episode explores Palestinian creativity under coronavirus from making masks with traditional Palestinian embroidery to virtual tours of Bethlehem. You can view the entire series at <mondoweiss.net/covid19series>.
Saeb Erakat, senior PLO leader and negotiator, continued to isolate in his occupied West Bank home after testing positive for Covid-19. He has only experienced mild symptoms, but is considered at high risk for complications due to his medical history including a mild heart attack in 2012 and a lung transplant in 2017. Erekat met with President Mahmoud Abbas a few days before, but all officials who attended the meeting were tested and found to be negative.
October 9 Israel
Half of the new coronavirus infections among preschool through 12th-grade students since Israel entered its second nationwide lockdown three weeks ago were in ultra-Orthodox schools, according to Education Ministry data published on Thursday.
At least two protestors were arrested in Tel Aviv after thousands of Israelis protested all across Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after the government approved a one-week extension on the emergency regulations which allow the limiting of demonstrations.
There are many signs that Israel’s second lockdown has brought an increase in the number of people reporting anxiety, both new cases and cases of people who suffered it in the past and experienced a new bout due to the stress of pandemic and lockdown.
October 10 Occupied territories
A vivid collection of photographs from Palestine in September 2020 includes the theme of coronavirus as collective punishment.
October 10 Occupied territories & Israel
Senior Likud lawmaker resigns from knesset panel over covid restrictions. Israel sees another drop in new cases, but daily deaths are among highest in world. Israeli army chief violates coronavirus lockdown. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat tests positive. Israel currently has 62,206 active cases; 1,941 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 5,547 active cases and 407 deaths, and in Gaza 1,557 active cases and 24 deaths. Five journalists were attacked in a week reporting from ultra-Orthodox areas.
October 10 Israel
Journalists from several Israeli networks have reported being attacked in ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods on at least five different occasions in the past week. Since Rosh Hashanah, about 200,000 more Israelis registered as unemployed or have been sent on unpaid leave from their jobs, as the overall number of unemployed citizens reached 950,989 amid the coronavirus crisis.
Dr. Shaul Lev, who heads the general intensive care unit at Hasharon Hospital in Petah Tikva, and chairman of the Israel Society for Clinical Nutrition, claims that data is emerging that vitamin D may be protective against coronavirus.
September 27 – October 3, 2020
If you missed the very informative JVP Health Advisory Council webinar with Fadi Quran this week, you can review much of the material in his article: Palestine and COVID-19: Lessons for Leadership During Times of Crisis
Of course, we are witnessing the greatest COVID-19 health disparity of all times, one person getting over-the-top cadillac medical treatment as so many go without access to care. The staggering US case/death rates (7.3 million cases and over 200K deaths) as this Administration has irresponsibly flaunted all public health recommendations and attempts to end the Affordable Care Act for so many people.
But, we will not focus on that ....you know the story.
Several recent articles worth noting:
DIsparate economic Impact of COVID
from the Washington Post 9/30/2020, The covid-19 recession is the most unequal in modern U.S. history. This is a visually powerful look at how the unemployment figures and ability to economically recover from the months of COVID has fallen disproportionately on communities of color--both in being the most heavily impacted in job loss as well as in ability to economically recover. As the article says, "About half of the employment lost between February and April has been recovered. But the pain is not spread evenly." Take a look at these charts for the graphics of economic impact of COVID on BIPOC communities.
COVID Impact on Native American communities
COVID-19 Among American Indian and Alaska Native Persons — 23 States, January 31–July 3, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep Provides updated information on the impact of the virus on these communities--both in terms of being underreported due to lack of good data as well as significant morbidity and mortality differences.
From the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Science report comes an important article spotlighting Abigail Echo-Hawk, the director of the Urban Indian Health Institute and researcher with the Seattle Indian Health Board. This article further details the impact of COVID-19 on the Native American population as well as to highlight data inequities which make the full impact very difficult to know.
Back to Palestine/Israel…
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September 27 Occupied territories
Covid-19 has brought a new set of lockdowns that has compounded the life of confinement already experienced by Palestinians under occupation. Beginning on March 9, Palestinian cities were placed under lockdown, with Palestinian checkpoints at the entrance of towns and villages, in addition to the Israeli checkpoints surrounding cities. Palestinian cities across the West Bank have officially re-opened since, but IMEU reporters spoke with Palestinians there about their lives under Covid-19 lockdowns, and how they found resilience to deal with their psychological impact (while acknowledging that the situation in Gaza under Israel’s suffocating blockade differs immensely).
September 27 Israel & US
In an opinion piece in Haaretz, Chemi Shalev asserts that the COVID-19 failure of right-wing populists like Trump and Netanyahu is hardly a coincidence, since the world’s worst-performing countries are all led by self-centered authoritarians.
September 28 West Bank
Economy Under Pressure is the fourth 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. This episode focuses on the city of Bethlehem, where the impact of the pandemic has been especially intense. At any given time of year, the streets of Bethlehem’s Old City would be filled with tourists from all over the world, but now shops have been closed and the streets are empty. According to local experts, short-term losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic reached up to 500 million dollars in the city of Bethlehem alone, and people here have been wondering if life here will ever return back to normal.
You can view the entire series here]
September 28 Israel
The new spike in COVID-19 cases was pushing Israeli hospitals to the limit, with reports of staff burnout, limited ER beds and surgeries, and coronavirus patients stuck in ambulances for hours while services searched for receiving hospitals. Hospitals began scaling down surgery, canceling outpatient care, and reducing the number of beds in internal medicine wards as pressure mounted to redirect resources to the growing number of coronavirus patients. A declining quality of care was already being felt in some departments due to the work load on intensive care and internal medicine.
September 29 Occupied territories & Israel
While the rate of COVID-19 infections in Israel has skyrocketed in the last week, Palestinian health officials are reporting more promising numbers, with the Ministry of Health reporting an 80% recovery rate among COVID-19 patients in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and East Jerusalem. According to Israeli health officials, Israel currently has over 65,000 active cases of the virus, while numbers collected from the Palestinian Ministry of Health indicated that there were 9,542 active cases in the oPt. While Israel and Gaza are in lockdown, life in the West Bank has continued on as normal — albeit with much less traffic coming in from occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
September 29 Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel's nationwide lockdown won't be lifted within less than a month, and that it "may take much longer than that."
Also the Knesset is debating an amendment to the government's coronavirus law that would bar protesters from traveling more than a kilometer (0.6 mi) from their homes to attend a demonstration. Outside, hundreds of protesters gathered to protest the legislation, three of whom were arrested by Israeli Police. Speaking in a Facebook live feed on his page, Netanyahu said the protests are "the whole problem" in regards to the consistent rise of coronavirus cases in the country.
According to a report released by Israel’s military intelligence branch, Israel had a higher infection and mortality rate per million people than the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Austria and South Korea. Israel conducts the highest number of coronavirus tests per capita out of all these countries, but also takes the top spot for the rate of positive test results, at 14.8 percent, the report states.
Thousands packed Jerusalem’s grand Hasidic Belz synagogue for Yom Kippur, none wore a mask. “We’re afraid only of the day of judgment.” In the Haredi community, some see the refusal to abide by the restrictions as a rebellion against the heretical state or as a mark of religious devotion.
The Knesset passed an amendment to the government's coronavirus law early Wednesday morning that would bar protesters from traveling more than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from their homes to attend a demonstration. This special state of emergency does not allow the government to completely ban prayer, protests or religious ceremonies, but will be able to limit the number of participants in such gatherings.
September 30 Gaza
Routine blackouts and shaky internet service have made remote learning in the Gaza Strip a challenge for students during the coronavirus pandemic. In Gaza, where poverty is rampant and infrastructure lacking, siblings are often left to argue over precious screen time during the hours when the power is on. Moatasem Al-Minawai, an official with Gaza’s education ministry, said challenges will continue even after schools reopen. With limitations on classroom attendance, students will be in school only part-time.
September 30 West Bank
A second case involving a Palestinian child detainee testing positive for COVID-19 in Israeli custodial detention was confirmed by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP). A 14-year-old Palestinian boy detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank on September 15 tested positive after two days in Israel custody. After multiple transfers, the child attended a court session via a video link to face charges for a stone-throwing offense. He was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay a 2000 NIS ($580 USD) bond, which would be forfeited if he were to be detained again. Citing reckless endangerment, DCIP continues to demand that Israeli authorities immediately release all child detainees.
September 30 Israel
COVID-19 cases among Israeli children doubled in less than a month. Although serious cases of COVID-19 remain relatively rare, among pediatric wards across the country are reporting that children admitted to the hospital for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, such as surgery, are increasingly testing positive for the virus.
October 1 Gaza (& academia)
In March, several respected physicians and human rights activists wrote a short letter to The Lancet, one of the world’s foremost medical journals, stating: “Pandemics will cause more damage to ‘populations burdened by poverty, military occupation, discrimination and institutionalized oppression.’” The authors urged the international community to act to end the “structural violence” that is being inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza. “A COVID-19 pandemic that further cripples the Gaza Strip’s healthcare system should not be viewed as an inevitable biomedical phenomenon experienced equally by the world’s population, but as a preventable biosocial injustice rooted in decades of Israeli oppression and international complicity,” Under pressure from “pro-Israel” groups, The Lancet withdrew the letter and published a rebuttal. The silencing of academic journals on issues of Palestine has become a dangerous pattern. (It can still be read, on an academic publishing search engine site, here.)
October 1 Israel
Israeli health officials, police fear Covid spike with mass prayers expected on Sukkot and Simhat Torah. Though some non-Hasidic and Sephardic communities call for obedience, other leaders have threatened 'all out war' with police. The Haredi community is now responsible for a third of the instances of infection and concerns are rising about Yeshiva students who are returning home.
More than half the already inadequate number of beds in Israeli internal medicine wards are now occupied by COVID-19 patients. leaving hospitals with insufficient medical staff and beds. Leading doctors say the situation has dealt regular departments a harsh blow and adversely affects the treatment of regular patients. “We are forced to release patients home faster. I have to shorten hospitalization time all the time. I’m in constant fear of not having place for the next patient,” said a deputy internal ward director in one of the major hospitals in the center of the country.
October 2 West Bank
A second Palestinian child imprisoned by Israel has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Israeli occupation forces detained the 14-year-old boy on September 15 in the Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood of the West Bank city of Hebron, accused of throwing stones. As of August, Israel was holding 140 Palestinian children as prisoners. “Israeli authorities are recklessly endangering children,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with the rights group, stated, reiterating DCI Palestine’s call on Israel to release all Palestinian children. Israel holds children and adults in overcrowded conditions and subjects them to medical neglect, systematic torture and lack of proper ventilation. Israel’s highest court ruled in July that Palestinian prisoners have no right to physical distancing to protect against COVID-19.
October 2 Gaza
For a second time since the pandemic began, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza opened in both directions between Egypt and Gaza, allowing stranded Palestinians to return to their homes. Around 1,700 entered Gaza and 2,659 went to Egypt. Instead of the 2-3 week quarantine for returning travelers, Palestinians will need to stay at a government-run isolation center for one week and spend seven more days in quarantine at home. The northern crossing into Israel at the Erez checkpoint is open, but seeing only 2% of the traffic before the pandemic. Israel tightened access during the summer and then the Palestinian Authority stopped filing paperwork for sick Palestinians seeking exit permits from Gaza for treatment in Israel. In recent weeks the WHO took over the humanitarian exit permit process, but crossing for medical treatment are still low.
October 2 Israel
Israel marked two weeks of its new lockdown with record cases, strained hospitals, and a COVID czar on his way out. Cases among the ultra-Orthodox were expected to rise further.
Among Israel's Arab population, a trend toward a containment of sorts was discernible, but that may be related to a decline in the readiness of the public to be tested. Among non-Haredi, non-ultra-Orthodox Jews, there was stability, and perhaps a slight decline in the daily rate of newly confirmed cases.
October 3 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel currently has 71,908 active cases; 1,679 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 7,286 active cases and 357 deaths, and in Gaza 1,397 active cases and 22 deaths. Border Police will replace soldiers in the coming days in enforcing traffic restrictions imposed during the national lockdown. At least 1,100 Yeshiva students who participated in a Rosh Hashana prayer service at a synagogue of the Ger Hasidic sect in Jerusalem have tested positive for the coronavirus. Last week, it was reported that 260 of the ultra-Orthodox group tested positive, but since then hundreds more were diagnosed. Israel extended the lockdown until October 14 and approved protest restrictions.
October 3 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.
The Israeli coronavirus cabinet was expected on Monday (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.
September 20 – September 26, 2020 to be completed soon
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.
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.
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.
September 20 Israel
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.
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.
A 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….
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. "
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
·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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for earlier entries, please see archived page
January 3, 2021- January 9, 2021
Listen to Mustafa Barghouti, who is currently sick with COVID-19, talking about vaccination racism and medical apartheid on Democracy Now.
January 3 Occupied territories
The Palestinian Authority announced a series of new measures to go into effect on January 3, in a bid to curb the rise in coronavirus cases in the West Bank. These new guidelines include a nighttime curfew from 7 P.M. to 6 A.M., and a weekend curfew on Friday and Saturday. All gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are banned under the new restrictions. The Palestinian authorities have also banned Arab Israelis from entering the West Bank, Palestinian laborers from moving between Israel and the West Bank, and all residents from moving between Palestinian cities.
The decision to introduce these new restrictions was made following the steadily increasing rise in the number of people contracting the virus and out of concern that hospitals would be overwhelmed. According to the latest figures published by the Health Ministry in Ramallah, 360 newly infected people were detected in the last 24 hours, with 12.6% of people tested for the virus found to be carriers. It was also announced that 14 people died of coronavirus in the West Bank over the last 24 hours. 119 people are in intensive care units, 27 of whom are on respirators.
Despite the announced measures, the Palestinian public seems indifferent, expressing doubts about the extent of expected enforcement due to economic pressures and business owners’ efforts preventing any closures.
The Palestinian Authority is awaiting the arrival of the vaccine, expecting a delivery from Moderna to arrive within a few weeks. The person responsible for handling the epidemic on behalf of the Health Ministry, Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra, said in an interview to Palestinian TV that the Authority will be receiving vaccines from four companies – Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and the Russian company Sputnik, but none of these can provide all the doses required in the West Bank.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is more complicated, with the rate of positive tests approaching 20% of people tested. According to figures released by the health ministry in Gaza, 704 new cases have been identified in the last 24 hours, with the number of active cases now standing at 9,816. 268 of these are in hospitals, 151 of them on respirators. Eleven people have died in the last 24 hours. The cumulative number of people infected in the current surge is 386.
The Hamas Internal Affairs Ministry said they would continue to maintain restrictions mainly on weekends, with a full curfew, and nighttime curfews on weekdays, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
January 3 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel is celebrating an impressive, record-setting vaccination drive, having given initial jabs of coronavirus shots to more than a 10th of the population. But Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza can only watch and wait. As the world ramps up what is already on track to become a highly unequal vaccination push – with people in richer nations first to be inoculated – the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories provides a stark example of the divide.
January 3 Israel
The deputy director-general of the Health Ministry proposed that the interval between the two doses of the COVID vaccine be increased from 21 days so that more people can be vaccinated sooner and receive at least some level of protection. However, the director-general rejected the idea.
The reservist major general overseeing the coronavirus response in the ultra-Orthodox community, accused Haredi schools of contributing to a rise in cases, saying that there was no enforcement of restrictions in the Haredi education system because of political considerations. “The Education Ministry is aware of it, as are the police,” Numa told Haaretz. Asked whether ultra-Orthodox political parties were a factor in this, Numa said, “Of course the political power of the Haredim has an effect. We don’t live on the moon. You need to also remember that we are now in an election campaign. Anyone who says otherwise is not being entirely honest.” Seven new cases of the mutated coronavirus variant that originated in the United Kingdom have been identified in Israel through genetic sequencing, the Health Ministry said.
Due to the swift rate of vaccination in Israel, along with the slowdown in the arrival of the vaccines, starting next week the vaccination campaign is expected to focus on administering the second dose of the vaccine. As for those who are supposed to receive the first dose of the vaccine, at this point it is not known to what extent, if at all, the health maintenance organizations and the hospitals will be able to vaccinate new recipients.
The Health Ministry has abandoned its failed contact tracing app and is now working on a new one that users can present if they’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus – if it passes legal muster.
January 4 East Jerusalem & Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed a coronavirus cabinet meeting in a bid to secure a majority for his proposal to impose a stricter lockdown. The prime minister supports a tougher lockdown which would last between seven and ten days and include closing the entire education system, save for kindergartens, grades first through fourth, as well as grades 11th and 12th.
The Israeli Health Ministry will be giving out “green passports” that will allow freedom of movement for those who have recovered from, were vaccinated against or tested negative for the coronavirus, according to a plan presented to the Knesset by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus czar Nachman Ash.
Only about three % of the East Jerusalem population have been inoculated, as opposed to about 10 % of Jerusalem residents in total. The vaccination campaign is meeting resistance due to conspiracy theories and fake news cropping up on Arabic-language social media, among other reasons. For example, vaccines are being administered in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah rather than local neighborhoods.
January 4 Israel
In a turnaround, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said he would back an amendment to allow pregnant women who lost their jobs during the coronavirus crisis to receive maternity benefits.
January 5 Occupied territories
Coronavirus in Palestine claimed the lives of 20 people while 1191 people have contracted the disease, and 1804 patients have recovered from it in the last 24 hours, according to Minister of Health Mai Alkaila. She said in her daily report on coronavirus in Palestine that nine people have died in the West Bank, six in the Gaza Strip, and five in East Jerusalem recorded over two days.
January 5 East Jerusalem & Israel
Only about 20% of Palestinian East Jerusalem residents aged 60 and older have received the coronavirus vaccine, compared to about 75% the entire city's Jewish population from the same age group, the Israeli military's Home Front Command said.
January 5 Israel
U.S. drugmaker Moderna said that Israel's Health Ministry had authorized its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the vaccine's third regulatory authorization and the first outside North America. "Israel's Health Ministry has secured 6 million doses and first deliveries (are) expected to begin in January," Moderna said in a statement. The Bank of Israel said it expects the economy to rebound quickly in 2021 if the country's fast start to vaccinating people against COVID-19 is maintained. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said about 1,370,000 Israelis have received the first dose out of two of the Pfizer vaccine, adding that almost 146,000 were vaccinated on January 4.
Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, a leading Israeli hospital, asked the Health Ministry not to refer more coronavirus patients from nearby nursing homes who have been treated by first responders because the hospital's COVID-19 wards are reaching full capacity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have reached an agreement to enact a full nationwide COVID-19 lockdown beginning January 10. According to the agreement, the entire education system, save for special education programs, will close. The cabinet met to discuss whether to approve the measure. It has yet to be decided whether the new regulations will last 10 days or two weeks.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein described protests as an “epidemiological risk” during a cabinet meeting, but said that any steps to limit protests will lead to media accusations of a “political lockdown, and some of the public will be persuaded of that.”
The surge in incidence of the coronavirus in Israel is once again leading to overcrowded hospitals, with almost 1,400 coronavirus patients hospitalized, of whom 837 were severely or critically ill. A week ago, the number of seriously ill patients was only 618. The mortality rate has also climbed, to an average of 25 to 30 deaths a day.
In ‘one final effort,’ the Israeli cabinet voted to approve tighter lockdown measures, including shutting most schools and workplaces, amid Israel's ongoing third nationwide lockdown, which began on December 27. The new regulations, to be voted on individually in another meeting on Wednesday, will go into effect at midnight between Thursday and Friday and last 14 days.
January 6 Occupied territories
WHO oPt issued Situation Report 58 on COVID-19, highlighting data that demonstrates a slight decrease in the numbers of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, describing public health restrictions that have been extended in the West Bank and continue in the Gaza Strip, and reporting on vaccine distribution.
January 6 Israel
The surge in incidence of the coronavirus is once again leading to overcrowded hospitals in Israel, with fears that the worst is yet to come. Almost 1,400 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of the 5th, of whom 837 were severely or critically ill. A week ago, the number of seriously ill patients was only 618. The mortality rate has also climbed, to an average of 25 to 30 deaths a day.
The Israeli Ministry of Health’s director-general, Prof. Chezy Levy, said that no criteria have been set for exiting the lockdown, which will take effect for two weeks starting on midnight the 7th. “We always talked about an R value of less than 1,” he said in reference to the contagion coefficient, which reflects the average number of people infected by anyone contracting the virus. He also said the daily number of infected people has to be less than 1,000, criteria for exiting the lockdown will be established as it unfolds, and the decision will not be influenced by the vaccine drive.
For the first time since the onset of the pandemic in Israel, seriously ill patients were unable to receive life-saving treatment due to hospital overload. No hospital space was found over the weekend for two patients that needed to be hooked up to a life-saving ECMO oxygenation machine which supports cardiac and pulmonary function.
January 7 Occupied territories
Below the headlines celebrating Israel’s vaccination rates lies a far darker story about health inequality. The occupied territories are in a financial crisis, leaving them next to no funds to purchase vaccine doses. So far, Israeli officials have said that they might offer whatever they have left over to the West Bank and Gaza after vaccinating Israeli citizens and East Jerusalem Palestinians.
January 7 Israel
At midnight the new regulations approved by the cabinet to tighten the lockdown will take effect for two weeks. On paper Israel is already under lockdown, but in effect the state has not been fully enforcing these regulations. The infection statistics have skyrocketed in recent days and the government has only itself to blame. Intensifying the lockdown is the collective price Israeli citizens must pay for poor enforcement for the past two weeks.
Police officials told Haaretz that the police didn’t intend to change their enforcement in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities – despite the declared intention of Haredi educational institutions to stay open even during the general lockdown that begins the 7th at midnight.
Almost a year since the coronavirus hit Israel, the country is in a third outbreak and entering its third tight lockdown. This time the vaccination campaign at least offers hope for the future, but it’s hard to avoid wondering whether a third lockdown could have been avoided, and if so, how.
January 8 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel started its third lockdown with a rise in new cases as active cases in the West Bank and Gaza dropped below 10,000. In the West Bank, there were 8,793 active cases and 1,262 deaths, and in Gaza 8,906 active cases and 416 deaths. Police reported clashes with lockdown violators across Israel, while the country received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine. The Jerusalem District Court announced the next hearing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, set for January 13, has been postponed indefinitely, citing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
While Israel hopes to vaccinate two million by the end of January, Palestinians are not part of the distribution plan. Israel could vaccinate its entire population before Palestine can administer a single dose. Palestinian officials haven’t released a clear outline of their vaccination scheme. The first inoculations in the region likely won’t occur until after the spring.
In early December, Gaza accounted for around a third of all active COVID-19 cases. Today that figure ballooned to 50% of all active cases in the oPt. Despite the growth, there were 5% fewer tests administered to Palestinians in the last week, and WHO projects that Gaza will again be out of tests in less than two weeks.
January 8 Israel
Israel is the only country that has openly admitted its previous lockdown was a pseudo-lockdown. The U.K. mutation is cited as the reason for tougher restrictions, but one can't ignore the reality in ultra-Orthodox communities and the false sense of herd immunity.
Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli officials late on 27 December 2020, demanding they act to immediately reverse the decision to block Palestinians designated by Israel as “security prisoners” from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
January 9 Israel
The Health Ministry announced that it had identified four cases of the South African coronavirus variant in Israel. Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said that the police will strictly enforce the restrictions of the tightened lockdown that went into effect. Incoming police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said that "some 220 roadblocks have been set up across the country. There are additional forces in rural areas." On Friday police issued over 3,000 fines for violations. In response to the attorney general's instruction to allow for the vaccination of prisoners, Ohana responded with a sharply worded letter, reiterating his stance on denying them vaccines.
Thanks to Trude Ann Bennett
December 27 – January 2, 2021
December 27 Occupied territories
Palestine is to receive first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines in two weeks. "The epidemic situation in Palestine is catastrophic and heading to the most difficult and dangerous," a government spokesmen warned.
December 27 Israel
About a quarter of a million Israelis received their first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since the vaccination drive began last week. The vaccine is currently available to medical staff and people over the age of 60. Dozens of inoculation centers operated over the weekend and tens of thousands of people came for their shots. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said an additional 30,000 Israelis were vaccinated over the weekend, raising the number to 280,000 so far.
Israel entered its third lockdown at 5:00 p.m. An hour later the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee adjourned its meeting on lockdown regulations without voting on new directives. Some 4,000 police officers will be deployed across the country to enforce the lockdown. To the consternation of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, the Knesset's Education Committee overturned a government decision to have students in fifth through 10th grade return to studying remotely during the lockdown. The Israel Teachers' Union declared a labor dispute, demanding that all teachers be vaccinated against coronavirus. If the issue is not resolved by January 12, teachers will reserve the right to go on strike, including long-distance teaching.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Amir Ohana instructed the Israel Prison Service late last week not to inoculate Palestinian security prisoners, despite Health Ministry’s guidelines that prisoners should be part of the second group of Israelis to be vaccinated against coronavirus, together with security personnel. The directive did not single out Palestinian prisoners, but “there are no non-Palestinian security prisoners in Israel.” Physicians for Human Rights-Israel protested strongly.
December 28 Gaza & Israel
COVID has given Israel an excuse to tighten the blockade of Gaza. Attending the wedding or funeral of an immediate family member is a valid reason to permit entry or exit from the Gaza Strip, but the pandemic has given Israel an excuse to ignore those directives.
December 28 Occupied territories & Israel
The apartheid system under which Israel operates inside the occupied territory could not be better displayed than in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine — who gets the vaccine, and who doesn’t, is a simple matter of nationality. Though legally required by international law to provide the vaccine to Palestinians under occupation, Israel puts the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority (PA). Unlike the Israeli government, the PA has been unable to secure enough vaccine to treat the more than 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, and 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s massive vaccination campaign, said to be the biggest in its history and titled "Give a Shoulder," will not include Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails or the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control despite a recent spike in cases and deaths stemming from the virus. The ministry's directive contradicts the health ministry's guidelines regarding the prioritisation of vaccination. In response to the Public Security Ministry's directive, Shas lawmaker Moshe Arbel posed a parliamentary question: why there is no need to inoculate all inmates in light of the crowding and harsh conditions in Israel's prisons and the positive pace of vaccination among the general population.
Physicians for Human Rights said: "Minister Ohana's politically motivated directive indicates once again why the responsibility for prisoner health should be moved from the Public Security Ministry and the Israel Prisons Service to a body whose first priority is health.
Israel's vaccination campaign will include Jewish settlers who are Israeli citizens living deep inside the occupied West Bank, but not the territory's 2.5 million Palestinians.
They will have to wait for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority through a World Health Organization-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as Covax, which has so far fallen short of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next years for those in poor countries.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Palestinians have only one refrigeration unit capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine.
December 28 Israel
The ultra-Orthodox sector has been very responsive to the vaccination drive, largely due to the encouragement of senior rabbis, Health Ministry sources reported. On the other hand, the Arab sector has been less responsive to the vaccination campaign than the rest of the population, to the extent that younger people who are not yet encouraged to register for inoculation are receiving vaccinations in order for them not to go to waste.
The vaccination rate for Israeli Arabs is low, according to the Israeli Health Ministry. Source attributed the low number of Arabs being vaccinated to the fact that during the drive’s first days health care workers were targeted. Several HMO clinics in Arab communities received approval from the ministry to begin vaccinating people under the age of 60, who are otherwise ineligible for the vaccine at this stage of the campaign.
Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana issued a directive preventing Palestinians detained by Israel from receiving vaccination, in violation of mandatory guidelines. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli officials demanding they act to immediately reverse the decision.
December 29 Gaza & Israel
Israel is exploiting Hamas’ helplessness to halt the spread of the coronavirus and conditioning aid for the pandemic on the return of Israeli captives and missing soldiers.
December 29 Israel
Nearly half a million people and more than a fifth of those over the age of 60 have received the first of two doses of the coronavirus vaccine since Israel’s campaign began last week, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.
Israeli prison authorities have closed down the Ramon prison after detecting several coronavirus infections among prisoners and guards, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS). Ramon prison is divided into seven cells and holds 360 Palestinian prisoners. The PPS said the increase in cases among the Israeli jailers is “the first source of transmission of the virus to the prisoners.”
Israel’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leaders urge followers to vaccinate against COVID, but misinformation and conspiracy theories hinder their efforts. Most followers are in no rush to get vaccinated, preferring to “wait and see.”
Israel has entered a third nationwide lockdown, and has severely limited the entry of foreigners into the country as cases continue to spike. Anyone arriving from abroad will be required to immediately get a coronavirus test and quarantine at home for two weeks, or 10 days if another test is taken on the ninth day.
Israel aims to vaccinate most adults by March, and it can do it as long as a high public response rate continues and the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain doesn't face delays.
December 30 Occupied territories
Every major political moment in Palestine this year was inevitably shaped by the coronavirus pandemic — and vice versa — which first hit Palestine in early March. In reviewing the year 2020, Mondoweiss summarizes the impact of COVID-19 on Palestinians under occupation.
Active cases decline in the West Bank, but rise again in the Gaza Strip. Israeli public health measures temporarily limit the entry of international NGO staff. Preparations for a national vaccination plan continue. The PA has submitted an application to receive financial support from the global risk-sharing mechanism for the pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines More details are available at the COVAX Facility website. The Ministry of Health is proceeding with the development of the COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan to outline strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of vaccination in the oPt. With the support of UNICEF, WHO and UNRWA, work continues to finalize an assessment of the cold chain capacity for COVID-19 vaccination and to prepare an application to support the upgrade of the cold chain system. In the meantime, the Palestinian authorities have emphasized the need to begin vaccination of the highest priority groups, in particular health workers, for which currently there is no provision.
December 30 Israel
Summer predictions of a surge in immigration to Israel because of the coronavirus pandemic have proved to be overly optimistic, as new data showed a drop of 40% in new arrivals. The predictions were made when it initially appeared that Israel was managing the rates of infection more effectively than other Western countries.
January 1 Occupied territories
Palestine Minister of Health Mai Alkaila announced that 1,450 new cases of COVID-19, 18 deaths, and 2,088 recoveries were registered across Palestine during the past 24 hours. In her daily COVID-19 report, Alkaila said a total of 5,110 COVID-19 tests were conducted in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during that time.
January 2 Israel
Israel’s heavily digitized, community-based health system — all citizens, by law, must register with one of the country’s four H.M.O.s — and its centralized government have proved adept at orchestrating a national inoculation campaign. More than 10% of Israel’s population has received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. An aggressive procurement effort helped set the stage.
The number of Palestinian prisoners infected with COVID-19 in Israeli jails is on the rise. At least 156 of the Palestinian prisoners have contracted the disease so far.
Thanks (as always) to Trude Ann Bennett
December 20 – 26, 2020
Important, from last week:
COVID-19 Reflects Global Racism, Not Equality
The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated and, in fact, accelerated the sharp inequalities that exist in every society individually, and the world at large. According to a June 2020 study conducted in the United States by the Brookings Institute, the number of deaths as a result of the disease reflects a clear racial logic. Many indicators included in the study leave no doubt that racism is a central factor in the life cycle of COVID. This iniquity is expected to continue even in the way that the vaccines are made available. While several Western nations have either launched or scheduled their vaccination campaigns, the poorest nations on earth are expected to wait for a long time before life-saving vaccines are made available. In 67 poor or developing countries located mostly in Africa and the Southern hemisphere, only one out of ten individuals will likely receive the vaccine by the end of 2020.
December 20 Israel
The Population and Immigration Authority notified all airlines flying to Israel that with the exception of diplomats, non-Israelis will no longer be allowed to fly to Israel from Britain because of the new mutation of COVID-19 discovered there. The ban includes passengers on connection flights through Britain as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a special team, headed by the National Security Council and the Health Ministry, to test the potential effects and implications of the new COVID-19 mutation identified in some parts of the world.
Facebook has removed four Hebrew-language groups from its platform for spreading false information about the new COVID-19 vaccines at the request of Israel's State Prosecutor's Office. According to the office, dozens of items containing intentionally misleading and false information about the vaccines were shared on these groups, which the State Prosecutor's Office said were designed to sow panic and discourage people from getting vaccinated.
December 20 Israel & International
Concern exists among Muslims and Orthodox Jews over pork-derived gelatin in COVID-19 vaccines. The stabilizer, meant to ensure vaccines remain safe and effective during storage and transport, presents a challenge for vaccination campaigns in some communities.
December 21 Occupied territories
Palestinians in the occupied territories have been conditioned for the curfews and travel restrictions that have attended the pandemic, considering the decades-long closures, curfews, Israeli-army-enforced blockades, land seizures, settlement expansions, and other abuses that govern their daily lives. But the virus has intensified these struggles, fracturing an economy that, in the West Bank, at least, had been steadily improving. Health and economic conditions in the long-blockaded, densely populated Gaza Strip are immeasurably worse, with critical shortages of ventilators and other medical supplies as coronavirus infections skyrocket. The spread of Covid-19 has had a particularly powerful impact, as nearly 60% of workers in the West Bank and Gaza are in the restaurant, hotel, commerce, or service industries. About 75,000 people in the territories still haven’t recovered the jobs they lost in the past year, pushing total unemployment to 19% in the West Bank, 49% in Gaza.
The Palestinian economy has recorded a decline of up to 12% in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
December 21 Occupied territories & Israel
While Israel has launched the largest vaccination campaign in its history, the PA continues its efforts to obtain the expensive vaccine and it is unclear if and when the vaccines will reach the PA and Gaza or who will finance them, and it is not clear how the complex process to inoculate the population will even be carried out, or even how the vaccines will be properly stored.
The PA is in contact and consultations with a number of medical companies and countries (including Israel) around the world in an effort to obtain a stockpile of vaccines . The PA’s Ministry of Health said last week that four million doses of the Russian vaccine, “Sputnik”, are expected to arrive by the end of the year and that a first shipment containing 150,000 injections of the Russian vaccine will arrive in the coming weeks.
December 21 Israel
As the vaccination campaign began, about 10,000 medical staff were inoculated and
over 170,000 Israelis had scheduled appointments. The campaign start date, originally scheduled for December 27, has been moved up twice, inevitably resulting in some hiccups, like long wait times for hotline callers and second dose scheduling difficulties. Some 60 vaccination sites opened this week, many more than originally planned.
December 22 West Bank
Taybeh, the only village in Palestine where the entire population is Christian, is having a dreary holiday season with residents confined at home due to the pandemic. “COVID-19, however, defeated us all and put fear in our hearts.”
December 22 Israel
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that a third lockdown is the only option to curb Israel's rising coronavirus infection rates, after Israel started its national vaccination campaign earlier this week.
After a lull, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox have been hit with high infection rates. In the Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem where the average number of new daily cases was recently 20, there are now nearly 200 a day. The weekly ratio of positive tests in those neighborhoods, which three weeks ago was around 3%, has reached 12%. In Bnei Brak the ratio of positive tests two weeks ago was 3%; now it is 10%. Controversy erupted over how coronavirus patients will vote in a potential election. 5.1% of coronavirus tests conducted returned a positive result, in the highest figure since October 14. With some 3,500 new cases, the total number of active cases in Israel is at 26,275.
December 23 West Bank
Palestinians in Bethlehem know that this year their Christmas is going to be anything but normal. In recent weeks coronavirus cases have surged in the occupied West Bank with the Bethlehem district seeing some of the highest rates of infection. Hospitals are quickly reaching full capacity in many districts, forcing the government to announce its strictest set of lockdowns since the pandemic first hit Palestine in early March. The streets of Bethlehem are relatively empty, shops are closed, and Palestinian families are once again cooped up in their homes, forced to make major changes not only to their daily lives, but to their yearly Christmas celebrations as well.
December 23 Israel
Four people in Israel have been diagnosed with a new strain of the coronavirus. Three of them had recently arrived in Israel from the United Kingdom; they were placed in isolation in quarantine hotels. A fourth case being investigated by the Health Ministry had not been abroad recently.
Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash recommended a 25-day lockdown. He also recommended that the entire education system close, save for special education programs; that public transportation be reduced by 50%; that so-called "green islands" for tourists close; and that commerce and leisure activities also close.
December 24 Israel
A fifth case of the new variant of the coronavirus originally identified in the UK was diagnosed in Israel, a day after the previous four cases were diagnosed. The government has backtracked on its plan to restrict classroom hours during the lockdown, meaning that preschools, grades one through four, and grades eleven and twelve will continue to attend classes as normal. Grades five through ten will continue to study remotely.
Fears of low demand gave way to overwhelmed vaccination centers in Israel, where the number of centers is doubling every few days. At the end of the fourth day of the vaccination campaign, 150,000 had been immunized against the coronavirus.
December 25 Occupied territories & Israel
Latest numbers from Mondoweiss, acknowledging the likelihood of undercounts:
147,234 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 121,721 recoveries, 1,385 deaths
Of Palestinians tested positive 93,807 live in the West Bank; 16,636 in East Jerusalem; and 36,791 in Gaza.
393, 369 Israelis tested positive; 356,689 recoveries; 3,185 deaths.
On December 26, Israel will enter a third national lockdown for two weeks, to be extended for another two weeks if the average daily new cases do not fall dramatically. Over the last week cases declined in the West Bank, but the leveling off has not extended to Gaza where new cases continue to surge. In total, there are 304 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths in Gaza. For the last month Gaza’s positive rate has been over 30%, which indicates far too few tests. In the last week an average of 2,194 tests per day were administered in Gaza. This comes on the heels of tests running out for at least a third time since the pandemic began, and WHO says Gaza will likely run out once more in the next week.
Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have raised an alarm that the Palestinian Authority has failed to secure an adequate amount of vaccines. Only 150,000 doses will come in the first installment in January. Palestinians are purchasing the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine with a 91.4% effectivity rate based on a phase III clinical trial with 26,000 participants, which is not approved for Israeli citizens.
December 13 – 19, 2020
A study on the impact of the corona pandemic on the services provided by the Legal Assistance Unit in the Palestinian Bar Association in Gaza. This unit is responsible for the providing of free legal consulting and judicial representation for marginalized groups in addition to gender cases in the Gaza Strip. While the Bar took only emergency courses and courts were closed, the legal assistance unit continued to receive cases from battered women, in accordance with the controls imposed by the circumstances of the pandemic, directly or transferred from partner institutions while taking appropriate and legal consultation in order to reduce the violence rates in the society. Also policemen were preoccupied with carrying out the state of emergency regarding the epidemic which helped the perpetrators to use violence against women without fear from judgment.
December 13 Gaza
As the virus spreads across Gaza, Hamas seems more willing to negotiate with Israel. The past few weeks have seen some progress in contacts over a deal with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to release missing and imprisoned Israelis. According to Arab media outlets, indirect negotiations have been stepped up recently, as the elevated spread of the coronavirus has increased Hamas’ reliance on outside aid.
December 13 Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's vaccination campaign could start earlier than planned. According to the existing plan, the general public would be offered the vaccine starting December 27. HMOs would start offering vaccines to the general public a week after health workers start getting it, with people over 80 and those with pre-existing conditions at top priority. The Health Ministry plans to vaccinate 60,000 people a day.
December 14 Gaza
Yaseen Abu Odeh, a representative of the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development, noted that poverty has worsened in Gaza over the past year. “The pandemic has really hurt working women in Gaza, which is really tragic as many of them are the primary breadwinners for their families. There are some employers who furloughed the contracts of many women or reduced their pay to less than the minimum wage.” Female unemployment reached 65 percent in Gaza during the period from July-September, compared to 44 percent for men according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
December 14 Occupied territories & Israel
Audio interview with Amira Hass and Dahlia Scheindlin about the Trump-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and Morocco, the spread of COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza, and this latest bombshell in Israeli politics.
December 14 Israel
Israeli soup kitchens are unable to keep up with rising demand amid COVID-19 poverty. Demand for food assistance has soared as the economy suffers its worst drop in output ever, with an unemployment rate still hovering above 14%.
A commentary argues that Israel is wasting time on useless measures to stem the pandemic and the incidence of infection in Israel’s Arab community illustrates the problem. Just a couple of weeks ago, the official in charge of coronavirus policy in the Arab community, Ayman Saif, threatened to resign amid professional disagreements with the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 policy czar, Prof. Nachman Ash. Their difference of opinion related to the effectiveness of local lockdowns in Arab towns that had been designated as “red,” where the prevalence of the virus is very high.
December 15 Gaza
The provision of a “predictable flow of testing kits and supplies remains a major challenge,” WHO recently announced. The world body has been “a main supplier of testing kits to Gaza, which will be unsustainable in the long-run.” WHO added that “additional resources are needed from the international community.” The health ministry in Gaza has had to “deploy oxygen generators from other hospitals and health facilities to cover current needs,” the charity adds.
Israel should provide vaccine to Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank as controlling power, says Physicians for Human Rights group. Senior officials in the Gaza Strip’s health care system warned that the system was at risk of collapse due to the sharp rise in the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition and on ventilators. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, in one day, the number of seriously ill or ventilated patients has gone up by 40 and now stands at 226. According to Gaza health sources, the hospitals and wards treating coronavirus patients are at 90% capacity. The two hospitals that were designated to deal with COVID-19 patients are full, and patients are now being sent to other facilities. PHR Israel also warned against letting the PA use the Russian coronavirus vaccine, as Palestinian media had been reporting. According to the letter, use of the Russian vaccine contravenes the policy of the Israeli Health Ministry, which only permits drugs that have Israeli regulatory approval to be distributed in the territories.
December 15 Occupied territories
Virus cases are surging in Palestine. Residents of Hebron staged protests against the PA over renewed COVID-19 lockdowns across the West Bank, sparking clashes and confrontations between armed civilians and PA security forces. Palestinian health officials have reportedly secured the delivery of four million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, only a fraction of which (150,000) are expected to come in the first shipment sometime at the end of December or early January.
The spread of Covid-19 has had a particularly powerful impact in the occupied territories, as nearly 60% of workers in the West Bank and Gaza are in the restaurant, hotel, commerce, or service industries. About 75,000 people in the territories still haven’t recovered the jobs they lost in the past year, pushing total unemployment to 19% in the West Bank.
In Gaza a distressed job market, which has long been denied the possibility of a tourism industry because of the blockade, has registered unemployment at 49%—a figure that has hardly changed in years and, as of 2017, was the world’s highest per capita. Nearly 60 %of Gazans who do have a job work in the service industry.
The Palestinian Authority is preparing to launch its coronavirus vaccination campaign, but officials say it’s still unclear whether they will be able to get any vaccines besides the Russian Sputnik V. Senior PA officials said the amount of Russian vaccine they were promised should suffice for the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. But sources in Israel and in international organizations active in Gaza said it’s not yet clear what solutions will be available for Gazans. Negotiations with Pfizer are ongoing but even if a deal is reached, it will probably be for only a small amount since the vaccine must be stored at very cold temperatures and the PA lacks the capability to store large quantities. Another question is how the vaccine will reach the PA.
December 15 Occupied territories & Israel
In Israel daily cases spike, surpassing threshold for new restrictions. Gaza sees severe spike in active cases. Israel prepares to start vaccinating on the 22nd, Israel surpasses 3,000 deaths, and Netanyahu enters quarantine. According to this data, nearly half, or 44.7 percent, of all coronavirus tests conducted in Gaza came back positive. In Gaza, there are 8,717 active cases and 202 people have died; In the occupied West Bank, there are 15,793 active cases and 905 deaths, and Israel currently has 17,691 active cases; 3,003 people have died.
While in Israel people are debating whether to be vaccinated, in the West Bank and Gaza it isn’t clear where they will get vaccines from, when they will get them, and who will pay for them. If the situation in the West Bank is uncertain, then in Gaza there is total darkness. Gaza has lost control over the spread of the virus and the leadership doesn’t know when vaccines will arrive or in what quantities. PHR Israel has called for Israel to vaccinate everyone. This is a justified demand. Israel has the legal, moral and humanitarian responsibility to vaccinate the Palestinian population, which lives in distress under its control and whose lives intertwine with the lives of many Israelis.
December 16 Gaza
Ten Palestinians die in 24 hours as Gaza reaches 'dangerous stage' in pandemic. Mobile medical units were set by the Ministry of Health in September to help ease the pressure on hospitals in the Gaza Strip and to test elderly and vulnerable people in their homes instead of in clinical wards. Medical workers in Gaza have warned that the health system is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of equipment, with only around 100 ventilators available and testing capacity halved due to chronic shortages. Several Israeli officials argued that Palestinians in Gaza should not receive medical assistance from Israel if there was no progress in prisoner exchange negotiations with Hamas, the movement that governs the Gaza Strip.
December 16 West Bank
“For Ahed Tamimi, a Journey from Prison to Pandemic” is the second in an Aljazeera podcast series “20 in 2020 – a snapshot of a global generation coming of age in an unprecedented year.” An icon of Palestinian resistance to many, she is now almost 20, and rather than being at university or protesting with her village, she’s been stuck inside four walls at home due to the pandemic.
December 16 Israel
The Health Ministry launched a wide-scale public relations campaign to convince the unwilling 50% of Israelis to vaccinate immediately. As the country prepares for its vaccination rollout slated to begin next week, the campaign will enlist the help of doctors, scientists, celebrities, politicians and religious leaders, as well as partnerships with Facebook and Google.
Israel saw 2,862 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, surpassing the 2,500 government threshold for enforcing new restrictions. The Health Ministry was expected to weigh a slew of new tightened restrictions, including closing stores and prohibiting gatherings. The threshold set for the government for imposing further restrictions is 2,500 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, or if the R number, representing the average number of people a carrier of the virus infects, reaches 1.32.
An unprecedented vaccination campaign against the coronavirus is about to get underway in Israel. Experts weigh in on safety.
December 17 Gaza & Israel
As Gaza saw over 1,000 new cases in a day, Israeli deputy minister says they “would consider” helping Palestinians with vaccines.
December 17 Occupied territories
The World Health Organization released WHO Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 56 for occupied Palestinian territories. Of note:
The number of deaths rose by 33% in the oPt and the overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) rose by 0.1 to 0.9 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
Gaza accounts for 35.3% of all active cases, followed by the West Bank governorates of Nablus (16.3%), Hebron (7.8%), Jenin and Ramallah (7%) Bethlehem (5.2%), East Jerusalem (5.8%) and Tulkarm (4.1%)
On 17 December, 1,015 cases were reported in Gaza, the highest daily record since the start of the pandemic. On the same day, 12 deaths were reported, the second highest daily death toll recorded so far
In West Bank, the second highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic was reported on 15 December with 1,598
December 17 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel’s vaccination campaign will include Jewish settlers living deep inside the West Bank, who are Israeli citizens, but not the territory’s 2.5 million Palestinians. They will have to wait for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank in accordance with interim peace agreements reached in the 1990s. The PA hopes to get vaccines through a WHO-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX, which aims to provide free vaccines for up to 20% of the population of poor countries. But the program has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals and is short on cash. Complicating matters is the fact that the Palestinians have only one refrigeration unit — in the oasis town of Jericho — capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine.
Israel will begin rolling out a major coronavirus vaccination campaign next week, but millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control will have to wait much longer. Israel’s vaccination campaign will include Jewish settlers living deep inside the illegally occupied West Bank, who are Israeli citizens, but not the territory’s 2.5 million Palestinians.
They will have to wait for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank under interim peace agreements reached in the 1990s. The PA hopes to get vaccines through a WHO-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX, which aims to provide free vaccines for up to 20% of the population of poor countries.
The program has secured only a fraction of the two billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals and is short on cash.
December 17 Israel
An analysis of Israeli Health Ministry data regarding coronavirus mortality in Israel shows that those who died of COVID-19 suffered mostly from high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
December 18 Occupied territories & Israel
Latest data: 135,356 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 108,631 recoveries; 1,207 deaths. Of those who tested positive 87,454 live in the West Bank; 15,744 live in East Jerusalem; 32,158 live in Gaza. Among Israelis 370,152 tested positive for COVID-19; 344,372 recoveries; 3,057 deaths. Once vaccine is procured in Palestine, priorities will emphasize those over 65, healthcare workers, and those with chronic conditions; however, around half of confirmed cases for Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are under 30.
December 18 Israel
Israel's nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign is set to begin next week. On December 19, health care workers in health maintenance organizations and hospitals will be first to receive the vaccine, and the general public will be able to be inoculated through their HMOs on Monday. The first to receive the shot will be members over age 60. Children under age 16, people who are recovering from the coronavirus, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with severe allergies will not be receiving the vaccine at this time.
December 19 Occupied territories & Israel
As Israel prepared to start its vaccination campaign, all arrivals into the country were ordered into quarantine starting next week. The active caseload for new restrictions was surpassed, but new restrictions won’t be imposed before 12/20. Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is again seeing a sharp increase in COVID cases, particularly in Jerusalem. Netanyahu was vaccinated on live TV. The World Health Organization said it plans to provide the Palestinian authorities with financial support to acquire vaccines for up to 20 percent of its population.
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 email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As of January 16, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 122,915 (includes 103,847in East Jerusalem)
As of January 9, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 119,294 (includes 17,592 in East Jerusalem)
As of January 2, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 115,911 (includes 17,592 in East Jerusalem)
As of December 26, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 110,443 (includes 16,636 in East Jerusalem)
As of December 19, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 104,072 (includes 15,890 in East Jerusalem)
As of December 12, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 93,723 (includes 14,535 in East Jerusalem)
As of December 5, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 85,307 (includes 13,604 in East Jerusalem)
As of November 28, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 75,067 (includes 12,971 in East Jerusalem)
As of November 21, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 68,696 (includes 12,526 in East Jerusalem)
As of November 14, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 63,881 (includes in 12,183 East Jerusalem)
As of November 7, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 61,162 (includes in 11,955 East Jerusalem)
As of October 31, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 58,394 (includes 11,666 in East Jerusalem)
As of October 24, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 56,008 (includes 11,604 in East Jerusalem)
As of October 18, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 53,624 (includes 11,404 in East Jerusalem)
As of October 10, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 51,014 (includes 11,189 in East Jerusalem)
As of October 3, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 48,423 (includes 10,841 in East Jerusalem)
As of September 26, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 45,847 (includes 10,319 in East Jerusalem)
As of September 19, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 42,450 (includes in 9,760 East Jerusalem)
As of September 12, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 36,797 (includes in 8,610 East Jerusalem)
As of September 5, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 34,012 (includes in 7,885 East Jerusalem)
There are also several organizations you may wish to donate to that are providing assistance to people in Palestine:
General Pandemic appeal from Grassroots International – Note: You may request them to restrict your donation to their COVID-19 Rapid Response to Palestine by marking that on your check. If you donate online, you may email them with the amount you donated and they will restrict the amount to the Palestine Rapid Response.
A Palestinian youth wearing a face mask rides his bicycle past a mural painting of a nurse injecting a vaccine to a COVID-19 virus in Gaza City, on 31 December 2020 (AFP)
January 10, 2021 – January 16, 2021
January 10 Occupied territories
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said it expects to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in March under a deal with British drug giant AstraZeneca, and accused Israel of ignoring its responsibilities to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.
January 10 Occupied territories & Israel
COVID vaccines may be the most lethal example of Israel’s disregard for Palestinian lives. It is one thing to blockade the people of Gaza for supposedly security purposes. It is another level of deplorable to deny them a life-saving vaccine, argues this opinion piece.
January 10 Israel
Five human rights groups petitioned the High Court against Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s decision not to vaccinate prisoners in Israeli jails until a greater number of Israelis have been inoculated. The petition, filed on behalf of ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Adalah, HaMoked and Rabbis for Human Rights, demanded that the Israel Prison Service “vaccinate the entire prisoner population according to the vaccination priority set by the Health Ministry, with an emphasis on prisoners aged 60 and over, and those in a high-risk group.” The petition also demanded that the IPS “prevent prioritizing the vaccination of prison staff over the prisoners.
Israel received another 680,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccines. This shipment will allow the vaccination of teaching staff, people under the age of 60 with underlying conditions, and others who have not been part of the priority groups vaccinated so far. Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said the health system seeks to vaccinate 200,000 people a day. The coronavirus strain found in South Africa might have some resistance to antibodies developed by people who have recovered form COVID-19, an initial research report published by Israel's coronavirus information center said.
Israel will share vaccination data with Pfizer as part of a secret deal. The Health Ministry says it would only share information already in the public domain with the company, which would have much to gain from the information collected in Israel.
January 11 West Bank
The Palestinian Authority has reached agreements with four vaccine companies, which has included granting “emergency approval” for the Russian coronavirus vaccine to be administered in its territory, covering up to 70% of the population. The PA said later it was allocating $10.5 million as a down-payment for the first stage of vaccination, to arrive within two months. The final cost will be $21 million,
The Palestinian health ministry has approved the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V.
January 11 Occupied territories & Israel
The health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has registered the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V, for domestic use, Russia's sovereign wealth fund said. The first shipment of the shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, said the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad. It did not disclose how many doses will be shipped to the West Bank.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and several Israeli human rights organizations spoke to Pfizer about acquiring the vaccine for the Palestinian territories, but were only offered a very limited amount, sources told Haaretz. The PA also made an agreement with the British vaccine company AstraZeneca company, with the first order expected as early as January 25, but there is no official announcement yet, the same sources said.
The new coronavirus variant originating from Britain constitutes 10 to 20% of recent coronavirus cases, Israel's Health Ministry estimates.
Israel is set to begin vaccinating people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities with the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They estimate that the entire elderly population in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be vaccinated in 10 days, and the vaccine will also be administered to all employees of these institutions.
Citing shortages, Israel rebuffed a request from WHO to provide COVID-19 vaccine for Palestinian medics, amid a global outcry over the disparity. The informal plea was aimed to avert a further health disaster during the long wait for vaccines.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, former Palestinian minister who serves on the Palestinian health committee that deals with COVID-19, makes the important point in the New York Times that Israel cannot reach herd immunity without vaccinating Palestinians. While Israel is now struggling to curtail a new wave of infections, it is on track to vaccinate 25 percent of its population by the end of January and every Israeli by the end of March.This includes about 600,000 settlers, but not Palestinians in the territories. The Israeli government’s decision to make the vaccine available only to Israeli citizens is not just an abdication of its legal obligations and a moral injustice, it is self-defeating.
New York Times
While Israel has launched an extremely successful vaccination campaign, around a third of the 14 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are not included in this campaign. Israel has distributed vaccines to Jewish settlers in the West Bank, but not to Palestinians there or in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials contend that these Palestinians don’t fall under their jurisdiction under the terms of the Oslo accords and that it is the job of the Palestinian Authority to procure and distribute vaccines in the occupied territories. But Israel as an occupying power has a responsibility for those living under its occupation.
While it is immunizing its citizens against COVID-19 at an unrivalled rate, the Israeli government is not doing anything to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living under its military occupation. In a cruel irony, hundreds of doses on the cusp of expiration were reportedly thrown away in Israeli clinics last week, while millions of Palestinians are being denied the vaccine. Israel not only refused to live up to its clearly defined legal obligations to the Palestinian people but also created a false picture in which it is working with the PA to defeat the virus. The PA is facing delays and supply setbacks to actually obtaining the vaccines.
January 11 Israel
Eleven people were detained in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod after hundreds of ultra-Orthodox clashed with police officers attempting to close a religious school that was operating in violation of lockdown regulations. Police said three officers and two municipal inspectors had been injured in the riots. Reinforcements were sent to the Meir Eini Yisrael school, which is associated with the radical ultra-Orthodox group "Jerusalem Faction."
With delivery expected 'within a month', Russia's Sputnik V will be the first shipment of coronavirus vaccine for the Palestinians. In March, Palestine expects to receive its initial Covid-19 vaccine doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca, the Palestinian Authority said, accusing Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.
January 12 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel has vaccinated 22% of its population but takes no official responsibility for Palestinians living under occupation, while Israeli defenders claim that accusation smacks of anti-Semitism [sic]. Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates that an occupying power is responsible for “ensuring and maintaining” public health in the occupied territories, which includes “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention requires an occupying power to ensure medical supplies are provided “if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.” The failure to do so is a manifestation of apartheid. The PA applied for and received financial support for immunizing up to 20% of its population through the Gavi COVAX Facility, a global initiative recently established to support developing countries with vaccine rollout. The PA also plans to procure vaccines for an additional 40% of its population through various other measures, including purchasing 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine directly from the drug company. PA’s claim to be a real state that doesn’t need Israel belies reality and only hurts the Palestinian people
January 12 Israel
Rights groups have criticized Israeli health officials and emergency services of discriminating against Palestinian communities in Israel by failing to provide accurate information regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine in Arabic. This week Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel -- filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice demanding that Magen David Adom (MDA), the country’s primary emergency medical and ambulance service, provide urgent essential COVID-19-related public health information in Arabic.
The Health Ministry said that they will allow Israelis above 50 to get vaccinated beginning 1/13. Until now, vaccines were distributed only to those who were 60 and above. The infection rate for individuals who received the first of two coronavirus vaccine doses dropped as time elapsed from the jab, most notably following the lapse of 14 days, preliminary figures released by the Health Ministry showed.
At least a dozen religious schools in the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel opened their doors again, as they have done since 1/10, despite violent clashes with police in Ashdod that led to ten arrests on Monday. No law enforcement operations have yet been reported.
Although 73% of people in Israel aged 60 and over have received the first of the two coronavirus vaccine doses, that percentage is substantially lower among Arab and Haredi communities.
January 13 Occupied territories & Israel
Israel has provided coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, the government said, rolling back its previous claim that the Palestinians have not received any. The government told the High Court of Justice that a shipment of 100 vaccine doses was provided in response to the Palestinians' request and that another shipment is expected to arrive in about a week and a half. The delivery was approved by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, according to the government.
The Health Ministry said that 9,754 people tested positive, in the biggest daily spike since late September. Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash saidthat Israel's third lockdown may be extended by one more week.
The Health Ministry said that they will allow Israelis above 50 to get vaccinated. Until now, vaccines were distributed only to those who were 60 and above.
Palestinians desperately await COVID-19 vaccine. The cash-strapped PA is forced to fend for itself as Israel excludes Palestinians in occupied territories from its COVID-19 vaccination program. Vaccines may become available in March but storage and scale are challenging. Gaza has five freezers suitable to handle the Pfizer vaccine. Since the onset of the pandemic, five new hospitals have been opened in the West Bank. These were slated to open as general hospitals but had to be redesignated to provide care for COVID-19 patients.
January 13 Israel and the world
Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich envisages using an international corps of young Jewish volunteers to distribute the vaccines to holocaust survivors worldwide, blindsiding the Agency that co-owns the corps with the ministry. The head of the Shalom Corps was “outraged” by the plan.
January 14 Occupied territories & Israel
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that vaccines would be provided to the prison service beginning next week. "Instead of having that argument [regarding whether prisoners should be vaccinated], just think, if a prisoner isn't vaccinated and gets sick, then we have to waste medical staff, a respirator and a ventilator on him. We must think of that as well," Edelstein said.
Israel has provided coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, the government said. The government told the High Court of Justice that a shipment of 100 vaccine doses [sic] was provided in response to the Palestinians' request and that another shipment is expected to arrive in about a week and a half.
Through Jan. 13, 1,814 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory have died of COVID-19—441 of them in the Gaza Strip. According to the World Health Organization, the positivity rate is much higher in the occupied territory (30%) than in Israel (7.9%). The extended family of Asmaa Tayeh, operations manager for We Are Not Numbers, is increasingly typical of residents there. Twenty-five members of the clan have tested positive for the virus, 15 have fallen ill and three have died.
January 14 Israel
Israel sees early signs that the vaccination drive is slowing spread of coronavirus. Figures show that among those who have received the first dose of vaccine, infections dropped dramatically after two weeks.
An unprecedented number of severely ill people and a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus threaten to blunt the impact of Israel’s stunning vaccination campaign.
Israeli authorities are failing to provide essential information on the vaccine in Arabic, to establish vaccine centers in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and to provide sufficient vaccines in Bedouin clinics in the Negev. These failures are “not a coincidence,” rights groups say.
January 15 Occupied territories & Israel
169,388 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 153,774 recoveries; 1,821 deaths
Of those who tested positive, 103,613 live in the West Bank; 18,883 live in East Jerusalem; and 46,892 live in Gaza
535,049 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 453,358 recoveries; 3,910 deaths; 2 million vaccinated
Israel announced it vaccinated its 2,000,000th person, hitting a staggering benchmark two weeks ahead of schedule and after achieving the highest per-capita rate of vaccination in the world.
While the feat has been widely celebrated, over the last week there have been two conversations swelling about how Palestinians are excluded from the robust inoculation campaign. First, Palestinian security detainees in Israeli prisons are not covered by any government right now. Five Israeli human rights organizations filed a petition earlier this month urging the prison service to “vaccinate the entire prisoner population according to the vaccination priority set by the Ministry of Health, with an emphasis on prisoners aged 60 and over, and those in high-risk groups.”
Israel’s minister of health Yuli Edelstein told Sky News’s Mark Stone Palestinians would not receive vaccines before Israeli citizens, however, "If, God willing, we will get to the situation where they will be nearly no demand in this country, we will be able to share."
Over the last week the positivity rate in Gaza finally dipped to 20% for the first time in weeks. The new numbers were released by the UN, along with a reminder that Gaza will run out of COVID-19 tests on January 20.
Gaza currently represents 51% of the active cases among Palestinians.
This week, the UN called on Israel to ensure “swift and equitable access” to the vaccine for Palestinians who live under its occupation. Since Israel began its vaccine rollout, Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations have protested that the country is failing in its obligations as an occupying power by not offering the vaccine to the Palestinians of occupied territory.
January 16 Israel
COVID cases are peaking in Israeli prisons as the government refuses to vaccinate inmates. More than 150 prisoners contracted coronavirus in several jails over the last few days. Prisoners complain that in addition to a lack of vaccines, they aren’t receiving basic medical treatment and wardens aren’t taking reasonable precautions. Israel’s Prison Service is preparing to transfer dozens of inmates to Saharonim Prison, where several cellblocks have been turned into coronavirus wards.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that vaccines would be provided to the prison service beginning next week. The Health Ministry announced that people over 45 can now get vaccinated through their health maintenance organizations. Israel currently has 79,084 active cases; 3,892 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 6,802 active cases and 1,348 deaths, and in Gaza 7,000 active cases and 464 deaths.
thanks to Trude Bennett and Susan Einbinder