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 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)
As of March 27 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 201,150 (includes 28,472 in East Jerusalem)
As of March 20 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 189,224 (includes 27,729 in East Jerusalem)
March 28 Occupied territories
The last month has been characterized by spiraling rates of infection and hospital overcrowdings in the West Bank, but according to Palestinian Health Ministry statistics, the number of recoveries per day is now outstripping daily infections. The ministry reported 971 new cases today, while 1,025 people recovered. There were still 24,547 active coronavirus patients in the West Bank, one of the highest figures since the pandemic began. There were 13 deaths in the West Bank and 5 deaths in the Gaza Strip today, taking the total deaths in the West Bank to 2,236 and 598 in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority has inoculated 48,963 people in the West Bank while Hamas has vaccinated 20,362 people in the Gaza Strip. As of mid-March, Israel had inoculated 105,000 Palestinians with work permits with one dose of the vaccination.
Minister of Health Mai Alkaila said that the Ministry is slated in the next two days to receive 100 thousand doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and 25 thousand doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There was a slight decrease in the number of Covid cases in Palestine, thanks to the public adherence to the safety guidelines during the lockdowns imposed over the past two weeks. The rate of hospital bed occupancy decreased from 115 % to 100%.” The percentage of positive rests in the past 24 hours in the West Bank was 21%, and in the Gaza Strip 20%.
WAFA News Agency
March 29 Gaza
A personal accountby Rami Almeghari, a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip, about his mother’s bout with COVID-19. A 72-year-old retired teacher with chronic medical conditions, she was brought to al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza. Back home at Maghazi refugee camp under quarantine, she faced “the worst experience of her life.”
March 29 Occupied territories
About 100,000 doses of Sinopharm, a vaccine against Covid-19 manufactured in China, arrived in Ramallah on March 29, the local Health Ministry reported. The Chinese-donated shipment comes on top of more than 62,000 doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine distributed through the international COVAX initiative. Additionally, about 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected. New vaccine doses also arrived in the Gaza Strip of the Russia-produced Sputnik V vaccine, a gift from the United Arab Emirates.
March 29 Israel
A Knesset panel barred digital tracking of COVID patients by Israel’s security service. According to Health Ministry data provided to the parliamentary committee, Shin Bet tracking helped identify a mere 2.2% of new COVID-19 cases over the past week. Three members voted in favor of extending its use, including Likud Knesset member Avi Dichter, who called the decision “cheap populism.”
A cabinet meeting scheduled for Monday was canceled due to conflict between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, delaying a vote on purchasing 30 million doses of vaccine at a cost of 3.5 billion shekels ($1 billion) and adding substantial funding to the Health Ministry. The Health Ministry has pushed for expanded procurement of vaccines to provide a wider cushion of supply. The Finance Ministry claims their demands are excessive — and that locking Israel into contracts would prevent selling excess supply to third countries, while failing to ensure that pharmaceutical firms are obliged to supply future versions of the vaccine adapted to deal with coronavirus variants.
March 29 International
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and several other UN division chiefs have spoken out against developed countries creating “stockpiles” of Covid-19 vaccines, calling on the international community to share doses more equitably to help end the pandemic. “It’s in the interest of everybody to make sure that as soon as possible and in a fair way, everybody gets vaccinated everywhere and that vaccines are considered to be a truly global public good,” he said on the Canadian channel CBC.
Middle East Eye
March 30 East Jerusalem & Israel
The Israeli Health Ministry’s dispute with an emergency services organization has delayed vaccinations for thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The agency, Magen David Adom (MDA), played a key role in vaccinating residents in recent months, but the ministry stopped working with them over a financial dispute. Meanwhile, hundreds of residents have contacted MDA, the Home Front Command and the municipality, asking to be vaccinated – many having received the first dose more than three weeks ago. Due to the controversy, there are no vaccine available in East Jerusalem.
Israel reopened the Taba border crossing into Egypt for the first time in a year. The resolution allowing Israelis inoculated against COVID-19 or recovered from the disease to enter Sinai via the crossing just southeast of Eilat will be in effect through April 12.
March 30 Israel
The Health Ministry has announced on March 30 that an Israeli strain of COVID-19 was discovered. Only a small number of patients were infected by the new variant and it has not been proved to cause severe symptoms, the ministry said, adding that the vaccines administered in Israel are effective against it. First evidence of the Israeli strain was found in July, the ministry said, but the number of patients infected by the strain is declining.
March 31 Gaza
As Gaza sees a spike in coronavirus cases, Magdy Dahir, deputy director of primary care at the Gaza health ministry, says the situation is ‘dangerous’ with a ‘clear increase in hospitalizations.’
March 31 Occupied territories
New UNCTAD simulations show the coronavirus pandemic will have a significant impact on the already shattered Palestinian economy.The Palestinian economy is projected to grow by only 3.7% annually between now and 2025, says a new UNCTAD study, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit economic recovery and growth globally.
The forecast is based on new model simulations that show that the pandemic will have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy, already shattered by restrictions and leakage of fiscal resources due to the Israeli occupation. According to projections, sustainable recovery requires lifting the occupation and siege.
March 31 Israel
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said their COVID vaccine was safe and effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year olds, prompting Israel’s Health Ministry to announce it would start vaccinating the country’s teens as soon as the vaccine receives approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.
April 1 Occupied territories
– World Health Organization (WHO) occupied Palestine territories’ Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 19, issued April 1, 2021, including COVAX updates.
– More COVID-19 vaccines arrive in oPt from China, India and Qatar, bolstering recent supplies arriving through the global COVAX mechanism
– Infections across the Gaza Strip are showing a worrisome upward spike, doubling over the last week
– The West Bank is seeing a decline in cases but numbers are still high and many hospitals struggling at full capacity.
April 1 Israel
Israel’s vaccine waste is likely to only worsen should the country go ahead and order another 36 million doses. The contracts that would be signed now are supposed to be final, and would allow some flexibility through September for the government to decide whether to delay supply until 2023 – but wouldn’t permit Israel to cancel outright. Israel wouldn’t be permitted to export vaccines should it have surplus supply, unless it receives permission from the manufacturers to do so.
While everyone is arguing over whether Israel actually needs another 36 million doses, it turns out that there are quite a few issues involving the 27 million doses that Israel already acquired. Finance Ministry Accountant General Yali Rothenberg sent an angry letter to Health Ministry Director General Chezi Levy this week, after it emerged that the Health Ministry had acted surreptitiously, without informing the Finance Ministry, contrary to vaccine acquisition contracts and contrary to the rules of government conduct. The Health Ministry admits that most of the accountant general’s allegations are correct.
For American liberal Zionists, criticism of the Israeli occupation has become par for the course. Yet over the past few years, many have remained steadfast in their refusal to acknowledge that the occupation is but one aspect of Jewish supremacy in Israel-Palestine. American Jews must recognize that Israel’s refusal to vaccinate all Palestinians under its rule is part of a supremacist policy that goes beyond the occupation.
April 2 Occupied territories & Israel
275,479 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 236,633 recoveries; 2,917 deaths
Of Palestinians who tested positive, 179,039 live in the West Bank, 67,854 live in Gaza, and 28,586 live in East Jerusalem
833,707 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 820,906 recoveries; 6,220 deaths.
For nearly four weeks hospitals in the West Bank have been at or over capacity as coronavirus cases surged during the winter in a third wave that proved more challenging to control than earlier outbreaks. However, for a second week in a row the spread of new cases continued to drop, as did ventilator use in ICUs.
Overall, there was a 12% reduction in new cases in the occupied Palestinian territory and a 20% decline in deaths, according to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report. For the first time in months, there was a decline in new daily cases in every governorate in the West Bank.
However, in Gaza, there was no turnaround. The B.1.1.7 variant, initially identified in the UK, was found there for the first time this week. Cases continued to soar with a 117% increase in new positive tests. Hospitalizations went up 62%.
April 2 Israel
Israel’s ‘green passport’ raises a red flag about civil liberties. Rather than the sharing of confidential medical records, Israeli rights groups stress transparency and PR campaigns as a better way to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
April 3 Occupied territories
Palestinian health authorities registered 24 new fatalities and 1,651 infections from the coronavirus pandemic, Anadolu Agency reports. Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila said 16 deaths and 698 cases were recorded in the West Bank while 953 cases and eight fatalities were registered in the Gaza Strip. According to the minister, 200 of those infected are in intensive care units, while 63 patients are supported by artificial respirators. Palestine has reported 277,130 coronavirus cases, including 2,941 deaths, since the first case of COVID-19 was detected last year, according to the Health Ministry.
Middle East Monitor
Thanks to Trude Bennett.