Posted on 12 August 2020

COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 15 (29 July - 11 August 2020)

Highlights

  • The overall number of COVID-19 cases rises by almost forty per cent and 32 more people die. 
  • The number of active cases remains stable at around 8,000. 
  • The Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt re-opened for the first time since mid-May. 

8,313  216,765 17,693 US$42 M
People with COVID-19 (active cases)  Samples tested for COVID-19 People in quarantine request for Inter-Agency Response Plan

Situation Overview

The cumulative number of Palestinians in the oPt who have contracted COVID-19 increased by 40 per cent over the course of the reporting period, from 13,938 on 28 July to 19,594 (as of 16:00 hrs, 11 August). The number of people who recovered also rose significantly, from 6,033 to 11,168, with the result that the number of active cases only recorded a slight increase, from 7,824 to 8,313. Thirty-two more people have died, bringing to 113 the cumulative number of fatalities to date. Fourteen patients are in intensive care units (ICU), with three requiring mechanical ventilation. A total of 240 health workers are among the people confirmed with COVID-19 (as of 10 August).

Almost all the 5,656 additional cases detected during the reporting period were in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), with Hebron accounting for over 50 per cent of active cases. Five new cases were detected in the Gaza Strip in persons in quarantine centres.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), since the onset of the pandemic, nearly 217,000 laboratory samples have been tested for COVID-19. Over 17,000 Palestinians are in home quarantine in the West Bank and some 271 in quarantine centres in Gaza, in order to monitor their symptoms and ensure early detection. (All data as of 10 August).

In the Gaza Strip, all schools reopened on 8 August, with approximately 600,000 students starting the academic year. The MoE and UNRWA have implemented a series of protection measures necessary for the safe return of students and of school staff, based on global guidance and frameworks. In the West Bank, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has postponed the reopening schools to 6 September, except for 12th grade students who returned on 9 August.

There is growing concern about a surge in domestic gender-based violence (GBV), taking place in the context of the pandemic-related movement restrictions and increasing socio-economic hardship; the number of reported cases of femicide recorded so far in the oPt stands at 24, the same number as in all of 2019. There are complaints about mistreatment, or the lack of, or slow response, by the police. Additionally, due to the halt in PA coordination with the Israeli authorities since late May, which came in response to Israeli government threats to annex parts of the West Bank, some alleged perpetrators of GBV are reportedly hiding in Area C, where the Palestinian police are not authorized to access.

West Bank

Caseload and containment measures

The epicentre of the outbreak continues to be the Hebron Governorate, which accounts for about half of the total cases, and 81 of the 113 fatalities. This is followed by East Jerusalem (24 per cent), the rest of the Jerusalem governorate (8 per cent), Ramallah (6 per cent) and Bethlehem (4 per cent). The governorates of Salfit, Qalqiliya, Tubas, Tulkarm and Jenin continue to record low numbers of people with COVID-19.

On 4 August, following the Eid al Adha holiday, the Palestinian authority (PA) announced a further 30-day extension of the lockdown across the entire West Bank, with the relaxation of certain restrictions to encourage economic recovery. Coffee shops, restaurants, sport clubs and gyms are permitted to re-open at fifty per cent capacity during weekdays, subject to safety measures. On weekdays, there is a night time curfew from 24:00 to 07:00, and a weekend lockdown from Thursday 21:00 to Sunday 07:00, except for pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets. PA officials have indicated that a complete closure will be imposed on any locality which experiences a surge in positive cases. The prohibition on public gatherings, including weddings and funerals remains.

On 4 August, the Israeli authorities allowed Palestinian labourers with valid permits to enter Israel through official terminals, and to remain in Israel until 27 August. Their employers are required to provide them with health insurance and adequate lodging and to ensure that the required safety measures decreed by the Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) are followed.

The PA called on all Palestinian labourers in Israel to comply with safety regulations and to refrain from commuting between their homes and work places. However, following its decision to halt its security coordination with the Israeli authorities, which came in response to Israeli government threats to annex parts of the West Bank, the PA removed the checkpoints it had deployed on key routes used by labourers and is no longer monitoring their movement.

A lack of public compliance with the lockdown and safety requirements was noted during the Eid al Adha holiday, when a full lockdown was supposed to be in place. There are also reports that thousands of West Bank Palestinians crossed into Israel during the holiday through unofficial gaps in the Barrier, with little or no interference from Israeli security forces.

Quarantine, isolation and treatment centres

People who were exposed to confirmed cases, and were either not tested, or tested negative, are sent to home quarantine, as are Palestinians who enter the West Bank from Jordan or Israel. At present, there are no official quarantine centres that are operational.

The vast majority of confirmed cases with light or mild symptoms have been referred to home isolation too. However, following the upsurge in cases in recent weeks and the concern of mass transmission, especially in overcrowded areas such as refugee camps, institutional isolation has been gradually re-introduced. Currently there are three operational isolation centres (in Jericho, Jenin and Nablus cities) which are hosting some 25 patients. The PA has indicated that a large isolation centre with a capacity of up to 1,000 patients will be opened for winter in a military base in Jericho city, while up to ten similar will be ready to admit patients. Insufficient coordination and lack of agreed guidelines between the various relevant authorities (MoH, Governors’ Offices and Camps’ Committees) has reportedly impeded the setup and running of the isolation centres.

Confirmed cases with severe symptoms are referred to a designated hospital/treatment centre, with 12 facilities currently operational. 

Although East Jerusalem has witnessed a fifty-seven per cent increase in cases during the reporting period and has 1,722 active cases, no additional restrictions have been imposed by the Israeli authorities, as is the case in Israel. There are three designated hospitals in East Jerusalem to treat COVID-19 patients (Augusta Victoria, Al Makassed and St. Joseph’s), in addition to Israeli hospitals where Palestinians who hold Jerusalem IDs can be treated. The Health Cluster is still appealing to partners and the donor community to scale up support, so that the East Jerusalem Hospital Network can continue to provide the specialized services unavailable elsewhere in the oPt.

Demolitions and other Israeli practices

Citing the lack of building permits, during the reporting period, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 26 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 68 and otherwise affecting nearly 100 others. Since the start of the pandemic the Israeli authorities have demolished or seized, or forced people to demolish, a total of 313 structures. These include 26 inhabited homes that were in place prior to the start of the crisis, leading to the displacement of 152 Palestinians.

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 the Gaza Strip, five new cases of COVID-19 were detected during the reporting period. This brings the total number of cases to 81, of which nine are active, 71 have recovered and one has died. All the nine active cases were immediately quarantined upon their arrival in Gaza through the Erez Crossing and were isolated in the Turkish Hospital following their positive test results. Approximately 70-80 people continue to cross into Gaza through Erez on a weekly basis.

A total of 14,298 samples have been tested to date in Gaza. Some 271 people are in the three quarantine centres currently operational, which include health facilities, hotels and another designated building.

The authorities in Gaza have announced that the Rafah Crossing with Egypt will be open in both directions from 11 to 13 August, the first time the crossing has opened since 15 May. Entry into Gaza is restricted to Palestinians residing in Egypt: another opening is envisaged at a later stage for Palestinians residing outside of Egypt.

More than 3,000 people have registered with the authorities to return. The local authorities, together with humanitarian actors, are scaling up their preparations to receive the returnees who will undergo the mandatory 21-day quarantine. A recently-established prison facility in Khan Younis will be temporarily transformed into a quarantine facility to host approximately 800 individuals. This is in addition to the existing quarantine facilities in Rafah, Deir el Balah and Beit Hanoun, designated hotels, and hospitals for people with health conditions. Altogether, these facilities can accommodate over3,000 people

Access out of Gaza via the Erez Crossing with Israel, already limited by the blockade and the pandemic, has been compounded since 21 May by the decision of the PA to suspend coordination with the Israeli authorities. The exit of a limited number of emergency medical cases has been allowed on an ad hoc basis, with the support of NGOs and international agencies. To mitigate the impact of this situation, the UN has agreed, with both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities, to facilitate the transfer of the required documentation between the sides, to ensure access for Gaza patients to essential health services in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. This process is expected to start operating soon.

The movement of goods from Egypt through the Salah-Al-Din gate continued as previously. On 11 August, following the launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli authorities announced that the Kerem Shalom Crossing would be shut down, except for the transfer of vital humanitarian aid and for fuel.

Coordination

The Inter-Agency COVID-19 Task Force, led by the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC), as well as the InterCluster Coordination Group (ICCG), continued convening on a weekly basis, to set policies and coordinate the implementation of various responses to the crisis.

Over the coming week, ICCG members will conduct a joint coordinated assessment of PA isolation centres in the West Bank, to ensure the provision of standardized services to confirmed COVID-19 patients. The objective is to assess the needs and gaps of these centres and determine what priority support the humanitarian community can provide. Consultative meetings with the relevant stakeholders are envisaged, to be complemented by potential site visits. In Gaza, on 10 August, representatives of the clusters and OCHA visited a new quarantine facility, to be completed soon in Deir al Balah, with the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), to identify existing gaps and to finalize the upcoming humanitarian response.

Although the Interagency Response Plan covered interventions only until the end of June 2020, updated financial requirements are planned to include funding needed to continue some of the activities in the original plan until the end of 2020: no new activities will be added unless absolutely required. The additional amount will be included in the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and COVID-19 humanitarian needs beyond the end of the year will be mainstreamed into the HRP for 2021.

The Health Cluster is tracking the procurement and delivery of critical medical supplies by Cluster partners against the immediate needs identified in the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Response Plan, and in line with the State of Palestine’s National COVID-19 Response Plan. The table below highlights the availability and gaps regarding the top ten medical items needed.  [1] All partners are encouraged to subscribe and submit their requests for procurement of medical supplies for laboratory testing, case management and infection prevention and control through WHO’s global COVID-19 response coordination portal.

To mitigate the impact of the PA halt of coordination with the Israeli authorities on the procurement of supplies and receipt of donations needed for the COVID-19 response, the UN Country Team activated a Logistics Cluster, led by the World Food Programme (WFP). Its main task is to mediate between the Customs Directorate in the PA Ministry of Finance and the Israeli authorities (COGAT and the Israeli Customs Office) to ensure the approval of the documentation required to allow the shipment of imported supplies into the oPt, through the various Israeli ports of entry. The Cluster is currently processing 42 requests from UN agencies and international NGOs, of which 34 have been approved by both sides and eight are pending approval by the Israeli authorities.

As part of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) plan, nearly 40 partners are distributing communications materials aimed at ensuring that the public has access to a broad range of information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to deal with misinformation, as restrictions are eased, or alternatively reimposed, by the respective authorities. RCCE materials are available online.

Funding

The COVID-19 Inter-Agency Response Plan for the oPt, which requested $42.4 million to support an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis and the efforts led by the Government of Palestine, has covered interventions through the end of June. However, most interventions are expected to continue during the rest of 2020, as needed. 

So far, $31.1 million, or 73 per cent of the amount requested in the Response Plan has been raised.  Including resources outside the Response Plan, 49.6 million has been mobilized in support of COVID-19 related response activities in the oPt.  

During the past two weeks, the only contribution received was for the WASH cluster from the CARE International Emergency Fund, to the amount of $80,000. 

So far, the overall response to COVID-19 has been generously supported by donors. The recent evolution of the pandemic requires sustained efforts to keep on responding to the full scale of needs of vulnerable people across the oPt.

Total funding for COVID-19 response by cluster (in Million US$)

Developments, concerns and funding status by cluster

Health

US$ 19,106,615 US$ 11,630,052 61% US$ 10,125,602 US$ 21,755,654
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • Concern about the ability of the Palestinian health system to manage the surge in COVID-19 cases. The number of confirmed cases, and related deaths, continued to increase during the reporting period. The Health Cluster Coordination Team is working with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify and respond to immediate needs, including case management, support to isolation and treatment centre personal, and the provision of protective personal equipment (PPE) and laboratory supplies. 
  • The Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) campaign supported by some 40 partners continues. During the reporting period, the campaign focused on messages concerning health advice and misinformation and targeted media outlets and the general public, primarily in hot-spot areas. More than 111,000 people have been directly exposed to these messages.   
  • Tens of thousands of people benefited from activities carried out by the Health Cluster during the reporting period. Partners provided the Ministry of Health (MoH) with laboratory testing kits and supplementary equipment to conduct tests and frontline health workers benefitted from full PPE items. Partners procured and delivered essential medical equipment for the treatment of severe and critical cases, including ICU beds and patient vital sign monitors
Medical item Needs “as identified in the response plan” Delivered Pipeline/procured Balance
Ventilator, medical, adult/child 150 20 110 20
Hospital Bed, for intensive care unit 150   96 54
Patient Monitor, vital signs 150 40 88 22
Oxygen concentrator, electric 150 15 80 55
Patient bed  300 80 12 208
Pulse oxymeter 200   200 0
Mask, surgical (box of 50) 20,000 24,103 3,139 -7,242
Gloves, non-sterile (box of 100) 20,000 28,685 19,838 -28,523
Real-time PCR machine 3 1   2
COVID-19 testing kit (primers and probes): 96 tests each 200 398   -198

Protection

US$ 951,000  US$ 1, 917,434 202% US$ 305,434 US$ 2,222,868
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • Gender Based Violence (GBV) sub-cluster partners emphasize the importance of training police officers to properly handle GBV cases, after several GBV survivors filed complaints of mistreatment, occasionally on the grounds of COVID-19 related movement restrictions. Several GBV organizations have complained about the slow response, or absence thereof, by the police. In some cases, police officers claim that they are not allowed to enter houses, and that courts are closed due to COVID-19. Some GBV survivors reported being treated with no regard to privacy or confidentiality, while others were simply sent home. 
  • There is growing concern about the safety of GBV victims, some of whom have been receiving death threats. Due to the halt in PA coordination with the Israeli authorities, some alleged perpetrators of GBV are reportedly hiding in Area C, where the Palestinian police cannot reach them. 
  • Child protection partners raise concerns about the health and well-being of Palestinian children deprived of liberty in Israeli prisons and detention centres. They call to immediately release children detained at the Ofer prison, next to Ramallah, where an Israel Prison Service official was reportedly tested positive for COVID-19; as of end of June 2020, 29 children were held in that facility.

Education

US$ 1,203,000 US$ 817,000 68% US$ 1,898,746 US$ 2,715,746
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • The Education Cluster is working with the Ministry of Education (MoE) on ensuring the safe reopening of schools. The MoE in the West Bank has postponed the date for reopening schools to 6 September, except for 12th grade students who returned on 9 August. In the Gaza Strip, schools reopened on Saturday 8 August with approximately 595,000 students returning. The MoE and UNRWA reopened the schools, taking into consideration all protection measures necessary for the safe return of students and school staff, based on global and contextualized guidance and frameworks. 
  • The MoE in the West Bank launched its back to school plan. The Plan seeks to ensure children’s safety, protection and emotional and psychological needs; to improve partnerships with all stakeholders in the education sector; to build the capacity of school staff to teach remotely; to ensure the implementation of the safe schools protocol; and to provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to students, including adequate support to children with disabilities. The Education Cluster is working with MoE to identify needed support from Cluster partners to successfully implement this plan. 
  • Education Cluster partners continue to provide awareness raising and MHPSS support to children and their parents and school teachers. Members of the MHPSS taskforce also continue to build up the capacity of MoE counsellors who are offering remote support to their students.

Shelter & NFI

US$ 3,342,551 US$ 1,755,251 53% US$ 2,767,382 US$ 4,522,633
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • Shelter Cluster partners have continued to support vulnerable people in quarantine facilities and inadequate shelters in the Gaza Strip. Cluster partners provided non-food items (NFIs) to all active quarantine facilities in the Gaza Strip, including bedding sets, individual hygiene kits and dignity kits. Since March 2020, over 51,000 NFI kits have been distributed to active quarantine centres in need. Arrangements are ongoing to support quarantine centres with the needed NFIs for the current wave of returnees through Rafah Crossing. 
  • During the reporting period, Cluster partners have distributed nearly 1,300 COVID-19 family hygiene kits to vulnerable households lacking proper hygiene facilities. The distribution of an additional 300 kits is planned to be completed before the end of August.  
  • Partners continue to provide assistance to families affected by the pandemic. Around 500 hygiene kits were distributed in the West Bank, primarily in the Hebron Governorate. Cluster partners are monitoring the situation and preparing for the prompt distribution of necessary items and materials.  
  • The Cluster evaluated the different capacities to support isolation centres across the West Bank. As part of the preparedness for the opening of 13 new isolation centres, of which three are already operational, 9,000 different NFIs are required, including mattresses, blankets, pillows, and dignity kits.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

US$ 6,055,240 US$ 5,824,668 96% US$ 1,595,064 US$ 7,419,732
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • The WASH Cluster reached over 10,000 people during the reporting period. In the Gaza Strip, four partners delivered over 17,500 bottles of water to quarantine facilities, while some 1,800 hygiene kits were delivered to vulnerable families across the oPt. Partners continued supporting the regular emptying of 60 soak pits/septic tanks. 
  • The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) developed a water-trucking mechanism targeting the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank. The mechanism will be implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the various governorate offices and the Palestinian Security Forces (PSF) to ensure that the targeted communities receive sufficient quantities of good quality water at affordable prices.  
  • Since the beginning of August, water service providers in Gaza reduced the operation of facilities by 20 per cent, due to the decreased power supply. Affected facilities include desalination and wastewater treatment plants. The reduction in water supply is expected to undermine proper hygiene practices.

Food Security

US$ 11,781,726 US$ 9,177,426 78% US$ 1,777,441 US$ 10,954,867
Funding requirements Through the Response Plan of the RP covered Outside Response plan Total Funding Received
  • Major agricultural inputs were available during the reporting period; however, prices remained above pre-COVID-19 levels, which is negatively affecting production. Most suppliers continued to accept cash payments only, while leading producers lack the liquidity needed to purchase the required inputs. Farmers reported reducing their production as a result of the fall in the overall demand.  
  • Food consumption levels and poor families’ capacity to cope deteriorated during the reporting period. There has been an increase in the reliance on negative coping mechanisms, including reduction in food intake, as well as in borrowing food from friends or relatives. 
  • Most markets closed due to the renewal of movement restrictions and lockdown measures. Some producers report that movement restrictions limit access to the few markets that are still open, while the prices are still high for main staples, including wheat and flour, rice, vegetables, and fruits. Producers and traders attributed the reduced market demand to reduced household income, movement restrictions and the negative consequences of the economic downturn. In Gaza, fishers reported a significant fall in the demand of fish.

COVID-19 response funding in the oPt (through and outside the Inter-Agency Response Plan) in US$

Cluster Response Plan Requirements (US$) Through the Response Plan (US$) Percentage of the Plan covered Outside the Response Plan (US$) Total (US$)
Education  1,203,000 817,000 68% 1,898,746  2,715,746 
Food Security 11,781,726 9,177,426 78% 1,777,441 10,954,867 
Health 19,106,615   11,630,052  61% 10,125,602  21,755,654
Protection  951,000   1,917,434 202%  305,434  2,222,868 
Shelter & NFI  3,342,551  1,755,251  53% 2,767,382 4,522,633 
WASH  6,055,240  5,824,668  96% 1,595,064 7,419,732
Total 42,440,132  31,121,830 73% 18,469,669  49,591,499

Total funding for COVID-19 response by donors

Donors

Through the Response Plan

Outside the Response Plan

Total in US$

Austria

 

229,564

229,564

Canada

2,215,757

 

2,215,757

CERF

527,000

 

527,000

DFID

1,148,789

 

1,148,789

ECHO

2,730,760

6,305,0001

9,035,760

Education Cannot Wait

555,000

1,550,000

2,105,000

Federal Ministry for Economic

Cooperation and Development

(BMZ)

112,500

 

112,500

Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

225,000

 

225,000

France

1,005,415

 

1,005,415

Germany

2,512,383

 

2,512,383

GIZ

436,181

43,000

479,181

ICO-UAE

112,640

 

112,640

Ireland (Irish Aid)

235,200

 

235,200

Islamic Relief Worldwide 

307,800

 

307,800

Italian Agency for Development Cooperation [AICS]

152,008

10,970

162,978

Japan

878,506

 

878,506

Kuwait

747,500

8,252,500

9,000,000

Norway

70,000

91,083

161,083

OPT Humanitarian Fund2 

6,642,564

347,768

6,990,332

Other Sources3

1,138,087

164,329

1,302,416

Private Sector Fundraising

386,786

 

386,786

Qatar Fund for Development

 

562,455

562,455

Qatar Red Crescent

 

410,000

410,000

Save the Children4

326,435

 

326,435

Start fund

251,000

 

251,000

Suisse Cooperation 

138,520

 

138,520

Sweden (SIDA)

500,000

 

500,000

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation “SDC” 

1,450,000

268,000

1,718,000

UNESCO 

 

150,000

150,000

UNFPA Humanitarian Thematic Fund

332,000

 

332,000

UNICEF

792,000

 

792,000

War Child Holland5

252,000

85,000

337,000

WFP (loan)

5,000,000

 

5,000,000

Grand Total

$31,121,830

$18,469,669

$49,591,499

1 Attribution to the Inter-Agency COVID-19 Response Plane under verification.

2 As of today, oPt Humanitarian Fund has received generous contributions from Germany ($13.1m), Belgium ($4.3m), Sweden ($2.1m) Switzerland ($2m), Norway ($0.9m), Ireland ($0.3m), Korea ($0.3m), Iceland ($0.2m) and Cyprus ($12,500).

3 Funding contributions below $100,000 including funding towards and outside Covid-19 Response Plan, received from: Action Aid, AECID, African Women Development Fund, AICS, Cantabria 19, Christian Aid&ACPP, Denmark, DRO, EIHDR, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Fridresh Nauman Foundation, Gazze Destek (GDD), Global fund for women, Grass Roots, HEKS, Holland, ICO-UAE, International Charity Organisation, IR – Canada, IR – UK, Italy (IADC), Jerrahi Order of America, Kvinna Till Kvinna, Luxemburg government - ARDI Program, McNulty Foundation, Medico International, Mennonite Central Committee, Mixed funds (German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch), NCA, DCA, NMFA, Nous Cims, NRC, Open Society Foundation, Oxfam, Penny Appeal, PHG, Private Donors, Rawa Funds, Representative Office of Switzerland in Ramallah, SIDA+DFAT, StartNetwork, Trocare,  UN Trust Fund, UNDP, United Palestinian Appeal, UNWOMEN HQ, Urgent Action Fund, WELFARE (Taawon), WHO, World Vision USA.

4 This includes contributions of Save the Children individual and pooled funds.

5 This includes contributions of War Child Holland and War Child Holland Head Office.


[1] For a more comprehensive list, please contact the Health Cluster Coordination Team: asaparbekov@who.int and maroufm@who.int.