On 31 December 2019, the Government of China reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei Province. A novel corona virus was identified and has been named COVID-19. On 30 January, World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. On March 11, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
As of 6th April, a total of 246 Palestinians have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 234 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem Palestinians), and 12 in the Gaza Strip. Only one person died from COVID-19 on 25 March in the West Bank until April 6th . The majority of people do not present critical symptoms and 23 people have recovered. While the current number of people detected in the oPt remains low, this may reflect the limited testing capacity. Contact tracing has been initiated for all confirmed cases. (Source: WHO)
Although the Palestinian Authority (PA) has taken strict measures early enough, and was able to some extent to contain the situation and prevent rapid spread of it in the oPT, stopping at around 100 cases; the real challenge started when the Palestinians workers in Israel started coming back to oPT after the spread of COVID-19 where the cases so far are more than 7000. The total number of workers amount to more than 45000 worker, and the PA is struggling to receive them, making tests for them and ensure the quarantine measures are taking place; especially as the cases among them have started to increase in tens. The PA fears a widespread of COVID-19 in the oPT that cannot be dealt with, given the Palestinian MoH incapability of dealing with hundreds of cases due to the lack of the needed capacities in the available hospital, that would lead to a collapse in the health system in Palestine.
The capacities of the MoH as indicated in their latest report for WB and GZ include: a total of 375 ICU beds, and 295 ventilators only. Therefore, the Government of Palestine is taking the strictest measures at the earliest stages possible.
In light of the above, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended the State of Emergency in Palestine for 30 days starting April 6th. This was accompanied by stricter measures on the various levels, such as movement hours, testing cases, etc.
The number of cases continues to grow, and the threat of further spread within the region and globally remains high. The COVID-19 outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive “infodemic” that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and evidence-based guidance when they need it. Understanding of this virus and the resulting outbreak is rapidly evolving. Information gaps have led to misconceptions, stigmatization, rumours and uncertainty that are currently partially filled by speculation in scientific and public communities, contradicting evidence-based health information and, in extreme cases, stopping people from protecting themselves and undermining the correct health seeking behaviours.
Overview of PRCS Response Action
Since February 2020, PRCS commenced activities in preparation for an outbreak of COVID-19 and then subsequently responded to the outbreak in Palestine. Activities include training for staff and volunteers, dissemination of public health messages and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to its medical staff (EMS, hospitals and clinics). A COVID-19 technical committee was formed on February 13th, headed by Dr. Wael Qadan, PRCS Health Consultant in addition to a Fund-Raising Committee that was also established. PRCS has been able to identify the needs of the communities affected by the outbreak both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip in order for volunteers and staff to lead the response actions. The PRCS has more than 1500 specialized volunteers ready to respond during the operation together with technical staff from various departments/programs.
To ensure a rapid, efficient and coordinated response, the PRCS focuses on the following components:
Preparing and protecting EMS, hospital and primary health clinic staff
Awareness and dissemination of key public health messages and psychosocial support
Provision of 15000 food parcels to vulnerable families including labourers returning from IsraelEnsure the wellbeing and coverage of basic needs of vulnerable families especially those with People with Disabilities between its members.
Provide PSS to families and awareness for violence prevention.
Provide NCD medicines for vulnerable chronic patients, unable to move because of the lockdown/curfew
- Palestine Red Crescent Society
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