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 and up-to-date numbers from the oPt are increasingly difficult to find. 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.
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As of December 4, 2021
West Bank 232,148 (excluding East Jerusalem) (Corona-Covid 19 surveillance system)
East Jerusalem 30,356 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system) unchanged in 7 weeks, so probably not accurate
Jerusalem governorate 42,054 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Gaza 187,622 ( MOH) 187,559 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Total oPt 461,396 (Reuters Covid 19 tracker) 461,467 (12/3 WHO) 461,761 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
As of November 27, 2021
West Bank 230,870 (excluding East Jerusalem) (Corona-Covid 19 surveillance system)
East Jerusalem 30,356 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system) unchanged in 6 weeks, so probably not accurate
Jerusalem governorate 42,040 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Gaza 186,849 (11/26 MOH) 186,906 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Total oPt 459,689 (Reuters Covid 19 tracker) 459,470 (11/26 WHO) 459,816 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
As of November 20, 2021
West Bank 229,959 (excluding East Jerusalem) (Corona-Covid 19 surveillance system)
East Jerusalem 30,356 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system) unchanged in 4 weeks, so probably not accurate
Jerusalem governorate 42,018 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Gaza 186,297 (MOH) 186,298 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system)
Total oPt 458,273 (Reuters Covid 19 tracker & WHO) 458,275 (Coronavirus – Covid 19 surveillance system) 457,950 (11/19 WHO)
November 28 Israel
Israel will ban foreigners from entering the country for 14 days and use surveillance to halt the spread of the new Covid strain, following full cabinet approval, local media report. The ban is expected to come into effect at midnight. The Israeli government is also pushing for mandatory quarantine for all Israeli nationals returning from abroad. Israel has so far confirmed one case of the potentially more infectious Omicron strain first detected in South Africa.
The Shin Bet security service told the coronavirus cabinet that Israel should establish a civilian body to track coronavirus patients through their cellphones, rather than asking the agency to do it. The cabinet was discussing reinstituting Shin Bet tracking for people infected with the new Omicron variant, and ultimately decided to do so despite the agency’s objections.
Israel confirmed a second case of the COVID Omicron variant, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash announced. The country’s first case was detected in a woman who had returned to Israel from Malawi. Experts say it will be two weeks before there is credible data on the Omicron variant’s vaccine resistance, while the Health Minister says Israel has been preparing for the arrival of a new variant for some time.
Israel’s chief of public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, warned that the potential for infection with the COVID variant Omicron is “very high,” but stressed that in cases where vaccinated people were infected they became only slightly ill. Speaking at a Knesset meeting, she gave the example of a flight from South Africa to the Netherlands, where 62 out of 600 passengers were found to be infected. “This is very, very fast,” Alroy-Preis said. According to the South Africa Medical Association, people infected with the Omicron variant have shown only mild symptoms.
Israel’s coronavirus cabinet has authorized a series of measures including banning entry by foreigners, red-listing travel to 50 African countries, and making quarantine mandatory for all Israelis arriving from abroad. The entry ban came into effect at midnight local time.
November 29 Israel
Just two weeks have elapsed since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett presided over a “war game” with a cast of participants who simulated the outbreak of a particularly virulent omega variant of the coronavirus. The conclusions generated from the simulation were consulted over the weekend – to apply them to the emergence of the enigmatic Omicron variant of the virus.
No suspected Omicron cases were found among 25,000 COVID tests taken at Israel’s international airport on 11/28. Health authorities are examining 15 coronavirus patients suspected of carrying the Omicron variant, including residents of Bedouin villages who had not traveled abroad and seem unlikely to have been exposed to the variant.
November 30 Gaza
The COVID-19 pandemic considers a threat to students’ well-being and mental health. This descriptive cross-sectional study study reveals that most students experienced moderate to severe levels of anxiety (89.1%) and depression (72.1%), whereas less than half of them (35.7%) experienced moderate to severe stress. Stress, anxiety and depression scores were significantly different across gender, age groups, family size, and family’s economic status.
November 30 Israel
Israel moved quickly over the weekend to impose new travel and quarantine restrictions following the detection of the country’s first confirmed case of the newly discovered Omicron variant. However, while health officials have stated that it could take up to two weeks to assess the potential impact of the mutated COVID-19 strain, cases of the older Delta variant were already on the rise.
Israel shut its borders to foreigners from all countries for 14 days on 11/27 to try to contain the spread of Omicron and has reintroduced counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to trace contacts of a handful of people who have likely been infected. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that restricting tourism to Israel is “temporary” for 14 days and that the government would not “extend it automatically,” at a press conference with Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman at Soroka Hospital.
The Israeli government voted to advance a bill allowing security service to track COVID patients for up to 2 weeks at a time, which must now pass a Knesset vote. The debate over using Israel’s Shin Bet security service to track coronavirus patients continued amid alarm over the Omicron variant, with the head of the country’s public health services backing the policy and the deputy attorney general saying it was “problematic and is being done for lack of choice.”
Two Israeli doctors, one of whom returned from a conference in London in the last week, have been diagnosed with the Omicron variant. Both had received three doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and so far have shown mild symptoms. Two others have been identified in Israel as carrying the new COVID-19 variant, one of them a tourist from Malawi who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Organizers of the Miss Universe pageant said 11/29 that a contestant tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Israel, which is pressing ahead with plans to host the pageant despite closing its borders in the face of a newly detected variant. The organizers said the contestant tested positive upon arrival in Israel and was taken to a government-run isolation hotel. She was fully vaccinated and had been tested prior to departure, they said.
The pageant was already in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. Citing COVID, Malaysia announced it wouldn’t send a contestant. And South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event. Both countries support the Palestinian cause.
December 1 Israel
Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka said in a radio interview that the country should consider a vaccine mandate in light of the threat from the Omicron variant. Zarka, who previously expressed opposition to imposing a vaccine requirement, said his changing opinion was due to the emergence of the new variant, but stressed that this was his own opinion, and does not reflect any activity carried out by the Health Ministry or the government.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s wife and children will fly abroad for a vacation, though a few days ago the premier implored Israelis to avoid travel due to concerns over the spread of the new COVID Omicron variant. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the trip was “planned in advance.”
December 2 Israel
After launching the child vaccination campaign in a spirit of tolerance, without rush, allowing for deliberations, coronavirus chief Prof. Salman Zarka has now said “all alternatives must be examined, including the one mandating compulsory vaccination.” Israel, where routine vaccination rates are 95 or 98%, has never faced such a dilemma. Not when polio broke out in 2013 and not when German measles spread. The corona pandemic is completely different in every parameter, including considerations for and against getting vaccinated.
December 2 International
The 2021 theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. A UNWRA Statement on this occasion included the following emphasis: “The Covid-19 global pandemic highlighted the deep inequalities that exist in our world. …Persons with disabilities have been among the most negatively impacted… Children with disabilities have struggled to keep up with remote learning due to inaccessible platforms that are not always customized to their specific needs.”
December 3 Israel
Israel reported Friday that the number of confirmed Omicron cases in the country has climbed to seven. Out of the confirmed cases, the Health Ministry said that four are unvaccinated. Of the remaining three, two had received a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and one had received the AstraZeneca jab. Six had returned from a sub-Saharan country and one from a European country. An additional 27 suspected cases are believed to have been infected after exposure to the variant. Of those, 22 were labeled as “unprotected,” meaning they have not received a vaccine dose within the last six months or are simply unvaccinated. Moreover, 478 new coronavirus cases were reported on, while the number of serious cases stood at 112.
December 3 Occupied territories
Mondoweiss weekly COVID-19 roundup:
- 461,467 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 453,392 recoveries; 4,810 deaths
- Of those who tested positive 243,648 live in Gaza and 187,463 live in the West Bank
- 1,344,668 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 1,331,063 recoveries; 8,199 deaths
- Gaza currently accounts for around 65% of all Palestinian cases. ICUs in the Gaza Strip are at 20% capacity and in the West Bank at 50% capacity.
- According to a weekly epidemiological report from the WHO, of the current COVID-19 tests, only 15% are PCR tests; the rest are the less accurate rapid tests. In 2020 Palestinians almost exclusively used PCR tests, but after a limit in access to restocks in April, health officials began relying on the antigen test.
- Palestinians have reimposed a state of emergency that will bar some businesses from opening, as both Israel and Jordan limited travelers from entering over the weekend in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. While the Omicron variant has not yet been detected among Palestinians, two cases were reported in Israel last week.
- The arrival of the variant comes as the Palestinian vaccination campaign has stalled. For weeks that vaccination rate has hovered around 50% for the target population, meaning persons 18 and older.
According to the Reuters COVID-19 Tracker, cases in the occupied Palestinian territories were 10% of the peak and rising with 39 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last seven days. On average, 261 new infections were reported each day. There have been 461,396 infections and 4,811 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the oPt since the pandemic began. The territories have administered at least 3,024,477 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 32.3% of the country’s population.
Three people have died of coronavirus in Palestine in the last 24 hours and 190 new cases were confirmed, according to Minister of Health Mai Alkaila.
Two deaths, 126 new cases, and 158 recoveries were reported in the West Bank, while one death, 64 new cases, and 70 recoveries were confirmed in the Gaza Strip.
Alkaila said 85 coronavirus patients are currently being hospitalized and 51 are in intensive care, while five patients are on ventilators.
Palestine Information Center
Thanks to Trude Bennett.