by Alice Rothchild, MD
We’re pleased to repost this weekly report by JWE board member Alice Rothchild, MD, which was earlier posted by the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council (JVP-HAC).
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.
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As of April 17 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 216,968 (includes 28,780 in East Jerusalem)
As of April 10 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 214,595 (includes 28,742 in East Jerusalem)
As of April 3 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 208,323 (includes 28,648 in East Jerusalem)
A review of the policy and ethical considerations around a vaccine passport/certification. Israel, which leads the world in per capita vaccination, is already issuing “green passes” to vaccinated residents. Issues include:
- privileging people who are fortunate enough to have gained early access
- rates of vaccination among racial minorities and low-income populations seem likely to remain disproportionately low
- the extent of protection conferred by vaccination, particularly against new variants, is not yet well understood, nor is the potential for viral transmission by people who have been vaccinated
- privileging the vaccinated will penalize people with religious or philosophical objections to vaccination
- we lack a consensus approach to accurately certifying vaccination.
Late but important, excellent review:
As healthcare systems in the occupied Palestinian territory struggle to handle COVID-19, new developments such as the normalization deals, Israeli bargaining with Palestinians on vaccines and relief aid, and health guideline breaches in protest of UNRWA’s aid cuts demonstrate how politicized the pandemic response has become. The politicization of Gaza’s healthcare sector is a legacy of occupation that continues to impact Palestinian life, and the current COVID-19 crisis is no exception.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 11 Israel
The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed.
April 12 Gaza
With Ramadan about to begin, severe COVID cases were surging in besieged Gaza, in large part due to the spread of the British COVID variant. Over the past three weeks, severe cases have risen to 219 from 58, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Moreover, yesterday’s testing showed a 38% positivity rate of the 4,700 COVID tests.
New York Times
April 12 Israel
Last week, it was repeatedly reported that a shipment of 700,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines had been frozen at the last minute due to nonpayment by the Israeli government. The first official admission of this came from Health Ministry director general Chezy Levy. He didn’t cite any numbers but said that Pfizer had halted a shipment to Israel until an agreement is signed.
Israel’s coronavirus cabinet approved an Education Ministry-drafted proposal to fully reopen the country’s education system, lifting most restrictions on schools. According to the new policy, should a COVID-19 carrier be discovered at a school, the student’s age group will have to get tested before being allowed back to school.
April 12 United States
Jewish groups have called on America’s Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Dr Anthony Fauci, not to legitimize “apartheid” Israel by accepting a prominent prize from the Zionist state. Fauci is one of the winners of the Dan David Prize for “Speaking Truth to Power.” Winners of the award receive a prize of $1 million during a lavish ceremony in Tel Aviv.
The appeal to Fauci was made by the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council. JVP HAC urged Fauci to “send a powerful message” by rejecting the prize. “The fact is that the award is being offered by the Israeli government which is guilty of maintaining decades of occupation and a widespread disregard for international law and Palestinian human rights,” said the group.
Middle East Monitor
TheUS Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACB) explains the importance of the Dan David prize affiliated with Tel Aviv University, “the Jewish Nobel,” and the history of the prize being a target of cultural boycott. USACBI was one of the organizations that co-sponsored a webinar organized by the Invest in Justice Coalition urging Dr. Fauci to reject the prize. Before the award presentation in May, the coalition will deliver three demands to Dr. Fauci: 1. Demand the right to healthcare for the Palestinian people; 2. Refuse complicity with Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and reject the Dan David prize; and 3) Advocate for racially just health policies in the US and everywhere. Nada Elia describes her interaction with JVP HAC and the successful resolution of achieving solidarity on this BDS issue.
April 13 Occupied territory
Palestinians are recording higher daily rates of new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 related deaths every day, as the ‘third wave’ of the virus continues to spread rapidly across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Ministry of Health recorded 2,593 new cases in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the majority in Gaza. The MOH also recorded 21 new COVID-19 related deaths, of the highest rates for Palestine since the pandemic began. Last week health officials in Gaza sounded the alarm when over 1,000 cases were reported in one day. In response, Hamas authorities in Gaza imposed a 9:00 pm curfew in addition to new restrictions on gatherings as Muslim Palestinians prepared for the holy month observance of Ramadan.
To date Palestinian authorities have been able to vaccinate only 81,543 people in the West Bank and 28,351 in the Gaza Strip, with a focus on medical professionals, people over the age of 75, those with illnesses such as cancer, and teachers. With a combined population of close to 5 million people, just a little over 2% of the population has been vaccinated.
April 13 Israel
Haaretz opinion piece by David Rosenberg: So, you think Israel’s in the post-COVID era? Think again. Inoculated Israel is too small a place to be insulated from the fact that most of the world is still struggling with the pandemic.
April 15 East Jerusalem
Delays in testing capacity are making it hard to get an accurate picture of how widespread the disease may be. In occupied East Jerusalem, concerns are growing the coronavirus is spreading through Palestinian neighbourhoods undetected. The number of recorded cases shot up this week to 41, but health workers fear it could actually be double that.
April 15 Occupied territory
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report No. 72, issued April 15, 2021. Highlights:
- Infections in the Gaza Strip continue to increase, albeit at a slightly slower pace than a week ago. Cases now account for 64% of all active cases in the occupied Palestinian territory
- In the West Bank, infections are declining slowly, but the medical response situation remains critical
- More vaccines arrive in occupied Palestinian territory: 48,000 doses of AstraZeneca are purchased bilaterally by the PA.
April 15 Occupied territories & Israel
The head of the World Health Organization recently decried what he described as “a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines. “On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added during a press conference last week. That inequality is sharply illustrated by the disparity in inoculations among the population in Israel versus that of Gaza, where new cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing.
April 15 Israel
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein instructed his ministry’s CEO to sign an order lifting COVID restrictions that require wearing a mask outdoors. The decision was made after accepting the opinion of ministry professionals that, in light of low COVID morbidity, masks in the open air can be dispensed with. Masks will still be required indoors.
April 16 East Jerusalem
Israel bolstered forces in preparations for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan in East Jerusalem and amid rising friction between the police and local Palestinians. In a departure from previous years, Israel is only permitting 10,000 West Bank residents, all of whom must be vaccinated, to attend the prayers.
Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, head of the Waqf Islamic affairs council in Jerusalem, told Anadolu Agency that 70,000 worshipers performed Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the largest such gathering since the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Palestinians accused Israel of breaking into four mosque minarets and cutting wires to prevent the call for prayers from being broadcast on loudspeakers during a memorial for fallen Israelis at the adjacent Western Wall.
April 16 Occupied territories & Israel
Mondoweiss weekly special coverage of coronavirus in Palestine, highlighting the fact that only 3% of Palestinians have been vaccinated so far, amplifying hospital bed shortages.
- 306,961 Palestinians have tested positive for COVID-19; 271,906 recoveries; 3,223 deaths
- Of Palestinians who tested positive, 189,831 live in the West Bank, 88,304 live in the Gaza Strip, and 28,826 live in East Jerusalem
- 836,726 Israelis have tested positive for COVID-19; 827,555 recoveries; 6,315 deaths
April 16 Israel
Since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel in mid-January, the daily number of patients diagnosed with the virus has declined by 98% and the number of serious COVID-19 patients has dropped by 93%. In addition, 87% fewer Israelis are dying of the disease, and 85% of those 16 or older have been vaccinated. However before the vaccines arrived, the pandemic exposed the mismanagement and flawed planning that dominated.
Israel’s Health Ministry announced they have identified an Indian variant of the coronavirus, with seven cases found in Israelis who had recently returned from abroad. The variant was identified by genetic sequencing of samples taken from the patients, none of whom had been vaccinated against the virus.
Thanks to Trude Bennett.