JVP-HAC: Covid 19 Timeline July 18-24 2021

J. W. Associate Blog, Gaza, Humanitarian affairs, Israel, Palestine

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.

If you would like to receive this weekly timeline, a monthly Media Watch, and the occasional article/action alert, please email us at health@jewishvoiceforpeace.org

Cumulative Coronavirus cases in Israel/Palestine, data from oPt is likely undercount, no data from East Jerusalem
Cumulative Coronavirus cases in Israel/Palestine, data from oPt is likely undercount, no data from East Jerusalem
Cumulative cases of Coronavirus in Gaza - likely extreme undercount
Cumulative cases of Coronavirus in Gaza – likely extreme undercount

As of August 7 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (numbers not available from oPt since 8/4)
Israel 893,105
West Bank 229,338 (8/4 WHO)
(includes East Jerusalem* since unchanged since 4/24 will no longer report separately on the graph as data is unclear)
Gaza 116,907 (8/4 WHO)

As of July 31 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (numbers not available from oPt since 7/27)
Israel 871,343
West Bank 229,061 7/27 WHO
(includes East Jerusalem* since unchanged since 4/24 will no longer report separately on the graph as data is unclear)
Gaza 116,108 7/27 WHO

As of July 24 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (numbers not available from oPt since 7/15)
Israel 857,977
West Bank 228,862 7/15 WHO
(includes East Jerusalem* since unchanged since 4/24 will no longer report separately on the graph as data is unclear)
Gaza 115,483 7/15 WHO

August 1 Israel
In a world first, Israel began administering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend to Israelis 60 and over. The country’s four HMOs are scheduling appointments for the new booster shot at a fast pace. This article addresses many questions about the campaign.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s director of public health services, said that evidence points to the waning immunity in the COVID-19 vaccine, saying her two biggest concerns with the Delta variant relate to its level of infectiousness and the rising rate of vaccinated individuals testing positive.
“It’s 50% more infectious than the previous variant, which was 50% more infectious than the original one,” Alroy-Preis told CBS’ Face the Nation, noting that a third of Israel’s population has not been covered, particularly Israel’s large population of non-vaccinated children.
She added that 50% of the current infections are vaccinated individuals. “Previously we thought that fully vaccinated individuals are protected, but we now see that vaccine effectiveness is roughly 40%.” She noted that while effectiveness remains high for severe disease, Israel is seeing diminished protection, particularly for those who have been vaccinated longer.

August 2 Occupied territories
Mai Al-Kailah, the Palestinian Minister of Health, announced that two deaths, 111 new cases of the coronavirus and 120 recoveries were recorded during the last 24 hours. Kailah confirmed in the daily epidemiological report of coronavirus that the two deaths were recorded in the Gaza Strip. She stated that the new infections were distributed as follows: Tulkarem 8, Qalqilya 2, Nablus 11, Jenin 6, al-Khalil 9, Bethlehem 1, Ramallah and Al-Bireh 2, and the Gaza Strip 72. Kailah stated that the recovery rate of the coronavirus reached 98.5 percent while the rate of active infections reached 0.4% and the death rate was 1.1% of all infections. She pointed out that there are 13 critically ill patients who have been admitted to intensive care units. Regarding the vaccination campaign, the total number of people who received the corona vaccine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reached 595,621 including 418,013 who received the two doses of the vaccine.
The Palestine Information Center

August 2 Israel
August 2 Israel hit a four-month high in serious cases, which currently stand at 212, including 42 patients on ventilators and 46 in critical condition.   
Israeli Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said the Health Ministry had developed a special index to monitor the hospitals’ total COVID case load. He added people who have received the third jab have not reported any side effects thus far.
So far 45,000 Israelis over 60 or with compromised immune systems already received the third jab, yet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would like to see the campaign gather steam. He added that “our goal is to immunize everyone by the end of the month.” 
Data presented suggested that the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing severe symptoms among those 60 and older has dropped to 81% from 97% in January.
More than 5.7 million Israelis have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and over 5.3 million Israelis have received two doses.  Neither the U.S. nor the EU have approved coronavirus booster shots. It’s not yet proven if a third dose helps and, if so, who needs one and when. The first large study on the strategy is underway, with thousands of patients in Norway participating. 

August 2 International
After months of struggle, the U.N.-backed Covax alliance will soon have many more doses, promising relief for vaccine shortages in poorer countries. But it faces a deepening crisis: difficulties getting shots into arms as the Delta variant spreads.
Covax has struggled to acquire doses: It stands half a billion short of its goal. Poor countries are dangerously unprotected as the Delta variant runs rampant, just the scenario that Covax was created to prevent. Covax has struggled with shortfalls in supply, backdealing, lack of funding, and competition between countries and pharmaceutical companies.
New York Times

August 3 Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with the coalition party heads about the rising COVID infection rates, hours before the coronavirus cabinet meeting expected to take place in the afternoon.  Bennett said that further restrictions need to be imposed, adding that within twenty days the number of critical patients is expected to double, rising to 800. 

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet announced a series of new COVID-19 restrictions, as the country plunged deeper into a post-vaccination Delta variant wave. The new regulations, including limiting gatherings to those with proof of immunity and encouraging working from home. 
A “green passport” – a document showing that someone has either been vaccinated, recovered from the virus or recently tested negative for it – will now be required for entry to events with fewer (sic) than 100 people. The coronavirus cabinet also recommended that private companies have employees work from home, while government ministries will have to reduce the number of employees working in the office to 50%. Children will now have to show a negative test result before entering such events. People will have to wear masks even at outdoor events with more than 100 people.

A new survey shows that Israelis are convinced another lockdown is imminent and are more afraid of that than anything else. Many are also reluctant to receive a COVID vaccine jab, even if they took the first doses. Over a year and a half into the pandemic, after thousands of deaths and three lockdowns, a sizable chunk of the public believes that COVID-19 is “part of a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies” (18%) or “part of a government conspiracy” (20%).

August 4 Israel
The Health Ministry wants to reinstate a mask mandate at outdoor events with more than a certain number of people. And the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee has already approved expanding the list of countries from which returning travelers must quarantine even if they have been vaccinated.
Health Ministry director general Nachman Ash has mentioned the possibility of another lockdown several times over the last month. But Health Ministry officials say a lockdown isn’t on the agenda right now. Ash’s comments seem to be meant to lay the groundwork for the possibility of a lockdown during September’s Jewish holidays. But no decision has yet been made.

Israel recorded 3,290 new coronavirus cases since August 3, with 234 in serious condition, data from the Health Ministry revealed, one day after a slew of tightened gathering restrictions were announced. Israel has recorded a slight drop in the percentage of positive tests, with 3.35% of coronavirus tests returning positive. Over 205,000 Israelis have received their third coronavirus vaccine dose, according to Israel’s health ministry.

Passengers on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv will be tested for the coronavirus on the plane itself or before boarding to speed up procedures upon arrival in Israel, where infections are on the rise. The Israeli airline announced the plan a day after Israel said travelers from the United States, like those from many other countries, would have to self-isolate for at least a week after landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. 

August 4 International
The head of the World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a way to help ensure that doses are available in countries where few people have received their first shots. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the appeal mostly to wealthier countries that have far outpaced the developing world in numbers of vaccinations.

August 5 Occupied territories & International
The perils of normalizing the Coronavirus include the “personal responsibility discourse” in the face of systemic failures, and the haphazard and financially driven international response that has deepened global inequalities, creating massive vaccine apartheid. This will lead to never ending international cycles of pandemic. Moreover, susceptibility to virus outbreaks will most likely become normalized, in the same way that we accept lack of health care, extreme poverty, and a foreign policy that ignores human rights abuses in countries that we deem as friends, exemplified by Israel’s aggressive occupation.
Palestine Chronicle

August 5 Israel
Far-right Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich argued without any evidence to support his claim, that Tel Aviv Pride in late June led to a surge in coronavirus infections across Israel, as the government mulls stricter measures to curb the spread of the delta variant. “There was a massive infection party that started this outbreak,” Smotrich, leader of the opposition Religious Zionism party, told the Knesset. “The Pride march, this unruly behavior in Tel Aviv, started this outbreak. “He claimed “no one has the courage to say it, because it’s not politically correct.”
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, one of only a handful of openly gay cabinet members in Israel’s history, called the remarks “shameful” and stressed on Twitter that “there is no connection between the Delta outbreak and the Pride marches.”

Serious COVID cases keep climbing as Israel mulls fourth lockdown. Another lockdown would be Israel’s last resort, the health minister said, calling on people to follow coronavirus guidelines and get vaccinated.

Faced with widespread violation of quarantine orders by Israelis returning from overseas, Israel is set to put into action a highly limited location-monitoring software system, which will be deactivated every weekend due to religious constraints for the Sabbath. The “Heskamon” software – which randomly sends out location-monitoring hyperlinks to the targeted phones and checks them against a registered address – will be adopted despite the fact that Israel had commissioned thousands of electronic tracking devices months ago, which have since been lying unused in the manufacturer’s warehouses. 

August 6 Occupied territories
Reuters reports COVID-19 infections increasing in the Palestinian territories, with infections reported on average each day. That’s 5% of the peak (the highest daily average reported on April 8), with 20 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last seven days. Palestinian territories have administered at least 1,026,500 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 11% of the population.

August 6 Occupied territories & Israel
346,576 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 340,988 recoveries; 3,879 deaths
Of those who tested positive 200,583 live in the West Bank and 117,120 live in Gaza
893,105 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 858,260 recoveries; 6,516 deaths
With laboratory testing still about a third of what it was a few months ago, it’s not possible to extract trends from the data on new Palestinian COVID-19 cases. Right now, it looks like new infections are down, but health officials are already discussing coping with a fourth wave and expanding health services to keep pace. So while we don’t have an accurate count on how many are catching COVID-19, what we do know is the vaccination rate.
As of yesterday, 607,942 Palestinians have received at least one dose, and 423,327 are fully vaccinated. That’s for both the West Bank and Gaza. That’s only 9% of the population.
Of countries that are moving forward with administering a third dose, all have vaccination rates over 60%, while the lowest-income countries have a vaccination rate hovering around 1%. The global average is 15.2% fully vaccinated, meaning Palestinians are clearly in the bottom half of the world when it comes to inoculation access.

August 6 Israel
Israeli Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said that if the rate of coronavirus infection does not slow, a lockdown might have to be imposed this month.
Speaking with Army Radio, he said that at this point he did not think the move would be necessary. He added, however, that if the number of people who were severely ill with COVID-19 and on ventilators increased to the point where the quality of hospital care was affected, the Health Ministry would have to reconsider the issue.

Israel recorded 3,843 coronavirus cases on the 5th as well as 253 serious coronavirus cases. Of all the coronavirus tests conducted on the 5th, 3.79% returned positive, a slightly higher number than the day prior. 6,509 Israelis have died so far from the virus.

Israel exempted houses of workshop from COVID restrictions. Regulations will only apply to prayers involving more than 50 people. A source said the attorney general warned broader restrictions might violate freedom of worship.

August 7 Occupied territories
A total of 136 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Palestine in the last 24 hours, a slight surge since last week.The Minister of Health said said in her daily report on the pandemic in Palestine that 44 people have tested positive for the disease in the West Bank while 17 patients have recovered. The Gaza Strip recorded 92 new cases and 16 patients recovered.

Thanks to Trude Bennett.