Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Palestine plunged into a second lockdown as Covid-19 cases spike

By The Palestine Monitor - July 08, 2020
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [West Bank]

On 3 July, the Palestinian Authority imposed a total lockdown in the West Bank, initially to last five days, subject to renewal, in an attempt to contain a surge in coronavirus pandemic infections.

Palestinian authorities fear if the outbreak spirals out of control, it could overwhelm its under-resourced healthcare system, however, the measure may come too little too late. 

As of 4 July, all 350 artificial respirators available in the occupied Palestinian territories were officially in use, both by COVID-19 patients, and patients with chronic illnesses, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

In the past two weeks, Palestinian health authorities have reported more than 1,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the occupied West Bank's city of Hebron and hundreds more in Bethlehem and Nablus.

The Hebron governorate has been under lockdown already for 10 days, while the Bethlehem governorate announced a two-day closure on Monday and Tuesday. 

Travel and movement for non-essential reasons will be prohibited, Government spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem, announced in a news briefing the day before the lockdown commenced.

Concerns over the occupied territories have mounted in recent days following a local outbreak. “As the government sees it, the length of the lockdown will correlate directly with the level of public health consciousness of its citizens, the latter of which has not been in evidence in recent weeks. That is what caused this relapse,” Milhim said.

He noted that the lockdown will help the health authorities contain the disease and hopefully give front line workers the ability to get on top of critical cases, which has reached unprecedented levels after ending the previous two-month lockdown on 27 May.

On Sunday 5 July, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended a state of emergency in the territory for an additional 30 days - a measure allowing officials to enforce additional virus restrictions, including deploying security forces, extending lockdowns and banning movement between cities. 

For a break down of the recent statistics of the virus, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 7 July, there were at least 5,092 cases of the virus in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Of the 5,092, only 668 patients were in recovery.

Of the overall total cases in Palestine, 4,575 are in the West Bank, 72 in the Gaza Strip, and 445 in occupied East Jerusalem.

The daily rate of infection continues to rise, with more than 300 cases reported on 7 July alone. Over the weekend, there were more than 500 cases reported in a single day. 

Israel has also announced a sharp uptick in cases, reporting 1,000 new cases a day, higher than its peak during the initial wave. It is set to reimpose restrictions in response, limiting occupancy in bars, places of worship, and event spaces to 50 people. It is also requiring citizens to wear masks and has urged more stringent social distancing. Since the start of the outbreak, Israel has seen more than 29,000 cases and 330 deaths. More than 17,000 people have recovered.

With the Palestinian economy still reeling from the first two-month lockdown that began in March, the government has refrained from enforcing extended lockdowns for fear of the social uproar that might result from the prospect of more economic turmoil. 

Local media has reported the PA have suggested the lockdown could continue for a further two weeks, leaving many businesses and workers in limbo as to whether to prepare for a prolonged shutdown.

The second wave of coronavirus cases and lockdown comes amidst added pressure from the imminent threat of unilateral annexation of the parts of the West Bank by the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The annexation plan was initially set to be announced by Netanyahu on 1 July, however, was delayed citing the need to focus attention on the rising coronavirus rates inside Israel. 

The annexation proposal, greenlighted by Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” blueprint released in January has drawn severe criticism from the international community. However, many within the West Bank believe it won’t change much on the ground for the lives of Palestinians as they have already been living under military occupation for five decades and Israel has annexed much of the West Bank in the form of illegal Jewish settlements.  

Around 620,000 Jewish settlers live in outposts or settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; considered illegal under international law they remain one of the largest roadblocks on the road to a two-state solution.


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