COVID-19 cases surge, vaccination rates still low in Palestine as Ramadan approaches

14 Apr
UNRWA employees wear face masks outside a UN clinic in Deir El-Balah, in the center of the Gaza Strip, on April 3, 2021. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

By Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss, 14 April 2021

Palestinians are recording higher daily rates of new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 related deaths every day, as the “third wave” of the virus continues to spread rapidly across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health recorded 2,593 new cases of the virus in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the majority of which were recorded in the latter.

The MOH also recorded 21 new COVID-19 related deaths, one of the highest daily death rates for Palestine since the pandemic began in March 2020.

While the West Bank has been experiencing a massive third wave of the virus for weeks now, with hospitals and ICUs filling up to capacity, Palestinians in Gaza were enjoying a relative calm, with some of the lowest rates of transmission they had seen in months.

That all changed in the last week, however, as health officials in Gaza sounded the alarm when over a thousand cases were reported in one day — the highest daily rate of infection Gaza had seen in months.

In response, Hamas authorities in Gaza imposed a 9:00 pm curfew in addition to new restrictions on gatherings in the besieged coastal enclave.

The increasing rates of COVID-19 in Gaza, along with the steadily high rates of infection in the West Bank come at a tricky time for Palestinians, as millions of Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, which is set to start next week.

In Palestine and across the world, the month is characterized by praying in congregation, gathering for meals with family and friends, and visiting loved ones.

Last year, Palestinians were forced to celebrate Ramadan with strict lockdown and social distance measures, and it’s looking like this year is shaping up to be the same, if not worse.

On top of the fact that the COVID-19 rate of infection in Palestine doesn’t seem to getting any better, Palestinians have been unable to turn to any sort of widespread vaccination campaign as a source of hope that the situation could turn around.

To date Palestinian authorities have vaccinated 81,543 people in the West Bank, and 28,351 in the Gaza Strip, with a focus on medical professionals, people over the age of 75, those with illnesses such as cancer, and teachers.

With a combined population of close to 5 million people, just a little over 2% of the population has been vaccinated.

Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza continue to rely on sporadic shipments of the vaccine, which so far have come every few weeks, with the largest shipment of 100,000 vaccine doses from China arriving last week.

Meanwhile in Israel, life is slowly starting to return back to normal, as more than 50% of the Israeli population received their first dose of the vaccine, and more than 30% of the population received the full two doses.

Throughout Israel’s vaccination campaign, which has been praised by world leaders and institutions as wildly successful, Palestinian activists and human rights groups have continued to call Israel out on its failure to assist in the vaccination of the Palestinian population.

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has a responsibility as an occupying power to ensure the medical supplies of the occupied people, including “adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics” to “the fullest extent of the means available to it.”

Link to original post updated 14/4/21:

COVID-19 cases surge, vaccination rates still low in Palestine as Ramadan approaches

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