The coronavirus crisis in Palestine is heading “into the red,” according to the Ministry of Health (MOH), as hospital beds across the West Bank and Gaza continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients.
As of a few days ago, there is a reported total of 27,041 active cases of the virus in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem right now, though the MOH has repeatedly warned that the actual number of cases out there that we are not aware of could be much higher than the reported numbers.
In the past 24 hours alone, we’ve seen 1,595 new cases of the virus. To put that into context, in the worst part of the pandemic in Palestine this summer, the highest daily rate of new cases stood somewhere between 700-800.
The daily death rate continues to climb and break its own record every day, with 19 deaths reported since yesterday, the vast majority in the West Bank.
On top of that, the 1,595 new cases only encompass the West Bank and East Jerusalem, due to the fact that the health officials in Gaza had run out of testing kits, and didn’t have any new data to report.
Following an emergency delivery of tests to Gaza by the WHO on Tuesday, health officials there are expected to start reporting numbers again on Wednesday.
Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Mai al-Kaila, described the situation in Palestine as “dangerous” due to the rapidly growing infection rate, and the fact that hospitals across the West Bank and Gaza are filling up their ICU’s with COVID-19 patients, many of whom are requiring ventilators.
In an interview with Voice of Palestine radio, al-Kaila urged citizens to wear masks, saying that if the situation continues down the path we’re currently on, “every citizen will be in danger.”
For the past two weeks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been implementing partial lockdowns across the West Bank: a 7pm-7am curfew on weekdays, and a full closure on Fridays and Sundays, with massive restrictions on movement in and outside of cities.
But due to the rising numbers, the government announced a full-scale one week closure beginning on Thursday evening this week, and ending on Thursday December 17th in select districts of the West Bank where the COVID-19 situation is particularly dire.
Among the districts to witness the full lockdown will be the Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron, and Tulkarem districts, where PA police will restrict movement in the streets and enforce closures on all non-essential businesses. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries, and hospitals and clinics will remain open for the week.
Meanwhile, the weekend (Friday, Saturday) lockdown will remain in place across the West Bank.
Despite no official announcements as to more long term lockdowns, Palestinians are holding their breath in an anticipation of periodic shutdowns that could last well into the new year.