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Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt): COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 11 (3 – 16 June 2020)

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Note: The next Situation Report will be issued on 30 June.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 60 new COVID-19 cases recorded during the reporting period.
  • The number of people in home or facility-based quarantine declines significantly.
  • Revised Inter-Agency Response Plan for COVID-19 crisis is 61 per cent funded.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

As of 16 June, 690 Palestinians, in total, are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in the oPt, with 60 new cases recorded in the reporting period. These include 184 cases in East Jerusalem, a further 434cases in the remainder of the West Bank, and 72 in the Gaza Strip. There are currently 115 active cases, with 570 cases recovered and five deaths reported since the start of the outbreak.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), since the onset of the crisis, 66,469 laboratory samples have been tested. The cumulative number of Palestinians in quarantine since the onset is 96,150. However, the number of people in home or facility-based quarantine has dropped significantly, from almost 23,000 during the last reporting period, to just 1,830 by 13 June.

The MoH and the humanitarian community continue to address critical gaps in laboratory supplies and other medical equipment, including life-saving ventilators and essential Intensive Care Unit (ICU) equipment. Despite the effective ending of the State of Emergency across the oPt at the end of May, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to encourage people to adhere to the recommended measures, including physical distancing and personal hygiene measures, in light of reports of widespread public flouting of the regulations.

The movement restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically reduced domestic economic activity and external trade across the oPt, with Palestinian Authority (PA) monthly revenues declining to their lowest levels in at least two decades. This will have significant consequences for public welfare, employment, and the financial and fiscal stability of the PA itself; “without recourse to international borrowing or significant additional budget support from donors, the Palestinian Government will be forced to adopt severe austerity measures.” According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy is expected to decline by at least 7.6 per cent in 2020, and potentially as much as 11 per cent, in the case of a slower recovery or further restrictions imposed due to another outbreak.

West Bank

The majority of new cases in the West Bank have been reported in the Hebron governorate, including eight in Halhul and seven in Ad Dahriyya towns. On 8 June, a new case was registered in Shu’afat, a teacher in a primary school for girls, the first case to be reported in East Jerusalem in almost a month. Around 70 teachers and employees, in addition to 78 students, were placed in 14-day home quarantine, and the school was closed for 14 days.

In response to the recent increase in the number of confirmed cases, on 15 June, the Palestinian Prime Minister called on security forces, the Governors’ offices and Ministry of Health staff to increase inspections to ensure strict enforcement of public safety regulations, including physical distancing and the wearing of masks, and warned that violators will be penalized. The Ministry of Health also announced an expansion of random testing.

In East Jerusalem, COVID-19 cases continue to be managed by the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN) and Israeli hospitals. Access to the East Jerusalem hospitals has remained severely restricted since early March, with only emergency cases and cancer patients granted permits, which have negatively impacted the hospitals’ operational capacity and financial situation. Comparing the month of April 2020 to April 2019, the hospitals reported a 72 per cent decline in access for those holding West Bank IDs, and a 59 per cent decline for Gaza patients. The Health Cluster is still appealing to partners and the donor community to scale up support, so that the EJHN can continue to provide the specialized services unavailable elsewhere in the oPt.

The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank was opened on 4 June, and again on 10 June, to allow for a total of 377 people to cross from Jordan to the West Bank. The PA has announced that in coordination with the Kingdom of Jordan, on 22 June, Allenby will be opened to allow for Palestinians from a variety of countries to return to the West Bank and to Gaza.

Israel’s occupation-related policies and practices also continued in the reporting period, with a marked rise in demolitions and related displacement, in particular. During the reporting period, citing the lack of building permits, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 57 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, displacing 67 and affecting 227 people. The self-demolition of three structures including one home was also recorded in East Jerusalem, displacing four people. More Palestinians have been displaced thus far in June 2020, than in any preceding full month this year.

Of continuing concern is settler violence, with physical attacks on Palestinian farmers and vandalism against Palestinian vehicles and olive trees, continuing during the reporting period.

Gaza Strip

In Gaza, the number of people in quarantine has also declined significantly. As of 15 June, 357 people are currently quarantined in seven operational centres, which include designated primary facilities and hotels, down from approximately 1,500 people in 14 centres in the previous reporting period. While preparing for another wave of Palestinians returning to Gaza, expected to take place in early July, the authorities indicate that the situation in the quarantine centres is stable, with no major gaps or immediate needs reported. A total of 11,740 samples have been tested, including outside of Gaza.

On 7 June, the Palestinian authorities in Gaza began allowing Gaza-based international aid workers, identified as critical for the COVID-19 response, to return to Gaza on a case-by-case basis, provided that they adhere to strict safety regulations, including a mandatory 21-day home quarantine.

The authorities in Gaza have designated 10 dunums of land west of Deir Al Balah in the middle of the Gaza Strip, to construct a third quarantine facility, with a capacity of approximately 350 individual rooms. The objective is to have more facilities exclusively dedicated for quarantine purposes and to rely less on the use of private or public facilities, such as hotel and schools. They added that, from now on, hotels that will be vacated will be disinfected and handed back to their owners in anticipation of a possible reopening of hotels.

As part of arrangement between the Palestinian Authorities and Egypt to curb the spread of the virus, the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt has remained closed in both directions since 15 May. The movement of goods from Israel and Egypt has also continued as previously, including the entry of restricted (“dual use”) items via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Access in and out of Gaza via the Erez crossing, which has been extremely limited because of the pandemic, is compounded by the decision of the PA to suspend security coordination in response to Israel’s annexation announcement. The PA is no longer coordinating the exit of permit holders through Erez crossing, or receiving additional applications for exit permits, particularly impacting those seeking essential health care unavailable in the Gaza Strip.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.