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 and the recent assault on these populations.
Numbers on East Jerusalem are erratic and may be also within the West Bank or Israel data.
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 September 25, 2021
West Bank Bank 231,719 (9/24) (plus 29,858 9/23 in East Jerusalem per WHO)
Gaza 162,478 9/24 per MOH) (160,733 per WHO)
Total oPt 426,033 (per Reuters Covid 19 tracker) 422,310 per WHO 9/23)
As of September 18, 2021 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (for oPt this is a mix of WHO and Ministry of Health- East Jerusalem numbers continue to be questionable)
West Bank 250,969 (9/9) (includes 29,413 in East Jerusalem – this number is not accurate)
Gaza 153,823 (9/17 per MOH)
Total oPt 412,442 (per Reuters Covid-19 tracker) 406,992 (9/17 per OCHA)
As of September 12, 2021 the numbers of Coronavirus cases (for oPt this is a mix of WHO and Ministry of Health- East Jerusalem numbers continue to be questionable)
West Bank 250,969 (9/9) (includes 29,413 in East Jerusalem – this number is not accurate)
Gaza 145,186 (9/11 per MOH)
Total oPt 397,573 (9/11 per MOH)
September 19 Israel
Some Israeli parents chose to keep children home from school out of concern that they may be required to quarantine over the upcoming Sukkot holiday. According to Health Ministry figures released on Sept 17, some 147,000 school children were in quarantine, 44,314 of whom were infected with COVID and the rest of whom had been exposed to infected people.
A booster shot of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine significantly reduces viral load in patients infected with the delta variant, and therefore reduces the chances of transmission, a new Israeli study has found. The study was conducted jointly by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and KSM – the Maccabi Research and Innovation Center. It was published on the MedRxiv website, which is for papers that haven’t yet been published in a scientific journal.
The researchers concluded that about six months after someone receives the second dose of the vaccine, its effectiveness at reducing viral load dissipates. But a third dose slashes viral loads by a factor of four, thereby restoring the vaccine’s effectiveness to what it was shortly after the second dose was administered.
September 19 Israel & US
The US FDA supported a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for those over 65, but raised questions about the need to vaccinate children. While the FDA prefered to wait for more data, Israeli Health Ministry officials are convinced that the decision to inoculate children was the correct one.
September 19 International
A powerful statement on the consequences of vaccine inequity and the reasoning behind delaying booster shots to healthy people. As the rich world rolls out Covid-19 booster shots, hundreds of millions of Africans remain dangerously exposed, still awaiting their first vaccine dose. This not only adds to the litany of harsh disparities we’ve seen around this virus, but it is also a scandalous injury to global solidarity and vaccine equity.
While early data on waning immunity is emerging around some vaccines, there’s no conclusive evidence to justify giving boosters to fit, healthy people. Third doses should be given only to the small number of people facing a high risk of severe illness and death, despite being fully vaccinated, including those with compromised immune systems. Boosters for the healthy are, effectively, a hopeful “why not.” Political decisions are getting ahead of science, diverting doses and leaving Africans with few options.
New York Times
September 20 Israel
People who have recovered from COVID in the past three months do not need to present coronavirus test results before arriving in Israel, the Health Ministry announced. Before landing in Israel, incoming travelers will need to fill out a declaration and present proof to their airline that they have recovered from the disease in the past three months. Until now, people who have recovered have needed to seek the approval of the exceptions board in order to exempt themselves from a PCR test before traveling to Israel.
In Israel there were 714 coronavirus patients in serious condition, most of whom – 478 – were not vaccinated at all. There were 250 patients in critical condition and 194 on ventilators. On Sept 19, 6,456 people tested positive, over 4,000 of whom were also unvaccinated, with 5.17% of tests coming back positive.
About one in 10 people who returned to Israel from Ukraine in the past month were infected with COVID-19, far more than any other foreign country, Health Ministry data showed. This followed the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the city of Uman, which officials warned could pose a serious risk to public health. During that period, as of the 19th, 9.87% of the 33,224 travelers from Ukraine – 3,278 people – tested positive for the coronavirus. For the United States, which accounted for the second-most arrivals with COVID-19, that number was 523 out of 45,532 travelers (1.15%). The third most came from Egypt, with 170 out of 13,706 travelers testing positive (1.24%).
September 21 Gaza
Fikr Shalltoot, Medical Aid for Palestine’s (MAP)’s Gaza Director, answers key questions about the impact of the pandemic’s third wave on Gaza’s beleaguered health system. In the 24 hours before the interview, there were more than 1,300 new cases, with 244 people in critical care and eight deaths. The virus is putting a further strain on Gaza’s overwhelmed healthcare system and having a devastating toll on the wellbeing of healthcare workers. Israel’s 14-year illegal closure and blockade of Gaza are causing severe shortages of essential medicines and equipment. With just over 370,000 people in Gaza receiving their vaccination, only around 18% of the population, and only 81,000 people receiving both doses, the virus will continue to spread throughout this densely populated area.
Medical Aid for Palestinians
September 22 Israel
Israel is facing a shortage of lifesaving heart-lung devices as 39 COVID-19 patients are currently connected to the ECMO machines, which replace the function of the heart and lungs when lives are in danger. Most of these patients are not elderly or suffering from a plethora of background illnesses. In fact, 29 of the 39 are between the ages of 40 and 60; 353 are unvaccinated, with only four patients fully vaccinated.
September 22 International
Pharmaceutical companies generally know how to coordinate their global supply chains. They also know how to work together to secure the resources they need to make their products. But when the situation requires changes to national and global policy, world leaders need to step in.
So far, they have not. For all its successes, the race to vaccinate the world against Covid has unfolded like a symphony without a conductor. The corralling of manufacturing sites has been haphazard. The channeling of equipment and ingredients has been messy and at times wasteful. And the flow of vaccines has been recklessly uneven: More than 80% of the four billion vaccine doses that had been distributed as of early August went to high- and upper-middle-income countries.
New York Times
September 23 Occupied territories
The WHO oPt Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 81 issued on September 23 reports:
- New COVID-19 infections appear to be slowing down across the oPt, although numbers are still rising in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with over two-thirds of cases remaining in Gaza.
- Positivity in the oPt is still significantly high at 21%, making a true analysis of case numbers difficult – testing needs to be substantially increased overall.
- The state of emergency over COVID-19 decreed by President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank continues in place.
- Also in the West Bank, social gatherings, including at funerals and weddings, are currently banned
- Local authorities in the Gaza Strip have resumed the vaccination campaign targeting employees of the public sector and high school students above 16 years old.
September 23 Israel
Unvaccinated Israelis are putting a strain on hospitals, Nachman Ash, the Health Ministry’s coronavirus director-general said as official figures showed that the 17% of eligible Israelis who have not received the vaccine account for 60% of coronavirus deaths in the past two weeks. “Illness today is mainly among the unvaccinated, [and] they are straining the hospitals,” Ash said. The strain is mainly felt by medical workers, he said – specifically, those working in emergency wards.
The first days of October are expected to be “complicated” for the school system with the coronavirus still spreading, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on the 22nd, but he stressed that the government wants to keep schools open, so the economy can function and to prevent “raising a generation of zombies here.”
Speaking at a discussion with senior officials on resuming school after Sukkot despite the spread of the coronavirus, Bennett said, “It’s the easiest thing to close everything and impose decrees on the public. I want to keep to calculated risk management, not hysteria. Those who keep wanting closures and restrictions are decreeing that we relive 2020 forever, or at least for the foreseeable future.”
A drug designed to prevent deterioration in the condition of coronavirus patients will soon be used in Israel, perhaps as early as the 23rd. The main beneficiaries, however, will be unvaccinated patients. The government spent 30 million shekels ($9.4 million) to buy a supply of REGN-COV2, which is made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Officials hope the drug, aside from saving lives and preventing suffering, will also help reduce the number of patients in serious condition, thereby keeping the country’s hospitals from collapsing and allowing the economy to remain open.
The drug will be provided through Israeli Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), not just in hospitals and geriatric institutions, and each HMO will set the criteria determining which patients are eligible. Calling the drug a “national resource in short supply,” the Health Ministry director-general vowed to avoid waste and carefully determine eligibility criteria.
An advisory panel to Israel’s coronavirus cabinet is demanding the government impose more restrictions on the public, arguing the cabinet’s policy to assess the disease’s severity only by the number of seriously ill patients is dangerous. Following a discussion earlier this week, the experts said that “the ongoing spread of the disease over the past month has exacted a heavy price on people’s lives.”
They demanded the government adopt a new policy and impose more restrictions, such as limiting the number of event participants with proof of vaccination to 300 in closed spaces. The panel said that despite the hope that the third vaccination drive would halt the disease’s spread, it is “not possible and not reasonable” for the government to continue on its present course. The experts said the infection chain hasn’t halted and the strategies the government has used so far “are not applicable at a stage in which 8,000-10,000 people are infected daily.”
September 24 Occupied territories
- 422,310 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 387,672 recoveries; 4,248 deaths.
- Of Palestinians who tested positive, 231,719 live in the West Bank, 160,733 live in the Gaza Strip, and 29,858 live in East Jerusalem.
- 1,254,351 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 1,180,403 recoveries; 7,611 deaths.
Reduced testing, depressed to about a half of what it was in early spring, masked a wider outbreak with the spread of the Delta variant in the oPt. Over the last month, when testing finally increased, so did the number of positive cases and deaths.
The World Health Organization reported in the first week of September there was an overall 55% increase in lab testing; and in Gaza, where the spread has been more severe, testing quadrupled over the last month. The positivity rate in Gaza is around 30%, one of the highest in the world.
In the West Bank and Gaza, there are 72 patients in ICUs, 14 on ventilators, and another 205 being treated in COVID-19 wards. On Sept 22, 549 tested positive in the West Bank and 1,534 tested positive in Gaza.
Health officials announced new protocols on the 23rd, instituting a mask mandate in most public buildings, taxis and buses, and stores. Universities and non-governmental organizations are encouraged to implement vaccine mandates. In classrooms where one student or a teacher tests positive, in-person learning will be temporarily paused. In instances where “a large number of infections are reported,” the Ministry of Health said it will shut down the school. Larger indoor gatherings are still allowed. Banquet halls are reduced to 50%, and there are new capacity restrictions on mosques and churches.
The Ministry of Health said on the 23rd that 54.3% of those eligible for vaccines had received at least one jab in the West Bank, and 31.4% in Gaza. “A dedicated vaccination drive in the Gaza Strip has seen more vaccine uptake in the last two weeks than in the entire six-month period before that when vaccinations first started,” the WHO reported last week. Because of the increase, vaccine mandates for government employees and high schoolers were paused last week. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, older Palestinians and those with preconditions are now eligible for a booster shot.
Graphics and numbers from WHO.
September 25 Occupied territories
COVID-19 claimed the life of 21 people in Palestine in the last 24 hours as 1492 new cases were recorded, today said Minister of Health Mai Alkaila in her daily report on the pandemic in Palestine. She said that 13 of the deaths were recorded in the West Bank where 262 new cases were confirmed and 711 patients have recovered. The Gaza Strip recorded eight deaths, 732 new cases and 950 recoveries. East Jerusalem reported 498 new cases and 116 recoveries.
Alkaila said 190 COVID-19 patients are currently getting treatment in hospitals and 73 are in intensive care, while 17 are on ventilators. A total of 1,358,918 people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 675,119 people have received a second dose.
Thanks to Trude Bennett.