|Confirmed COVID cases||People in quarantine centres||People under quarantine||request for Interagency Response Plan|
As of 30 March, a total of 117 Palestinians have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 107 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem Palestinians), and ten in the Gaza Strip. The first person died from COVID-19 on 25 March in the West Bank. The majority of people do not present critical symptoms and 18 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.
The capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in patients remains severely impaired by longstanding challenges and critical shortages, particularly in the Gaza Strip. As elsewhere, the most vulnerable groups, who may require intensive medical care, are the elderly and those suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, lung conditions, kidney failure, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. People in refugee camps and other poor, densely-populated areas across the oPt face a higher risk of contagion due to overcrowding and inadequate sanitation.
The most urgent items currently needed to contain the spread of COVID-19, which are in short supply, include: personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and other essential supplies for infection prevention and control; equipment, disposables and drugs for the treatment of respiratory distress; ventilators, cardio-monitors, emergency carts and portable X-Ray machines; and equipment to conduct COVID-19 tests. Hospitals across the oPt also face shortages of specialized staff in intensive care units.
The closure of schools, limitations on access to work places, and the imposition of quarantine and curfew which have been put in place, are expected to increase mental and psychosocial distress, particularly among children, as well as gender-based violence, while social services addressing these issues have been severely curtailed. As severe restrictions on social and economic activity continue, the impact of long-term disruptions raises serious concern, particularly given the already-dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
On 22 March, the Palestinian Authority (PA) imposed a curfew in the West Bank for 14 days, obliging people to stay at home, other than to purchase of food and medicine, or in case of emergency. Further to the death of a 66-year-old woman in Biddu on 25 March, the Jerusalem Governor announced a full closure of that community, and, subsequently, a complete lockdown movement of all the villages in the north-western Jerusalem governorate.
Following the detection of three cases in Hebron on 29 March, the PA blocked all access routes to and from the city, except for one to bring in food and commodities. The city has been divided geographically with road blocks to prevent movement between neighbourhoods, and food shops open for designated hours only.
Throughout the West Bank, there is increasing restriction of movement by the PA, including physical obstacles on some main roads and village entrances. Access by Palestinian farmers to their land in the “Seam Zone”, the area between the Barrier and the Green line, particularly in the northern West Bank, is also highly restricted following Israel’s suspension of most existing permits.
On 24 March, the Palestinian authorities recalled all Palestinian workers employed in Israel to the West Bank; the scope of implementation remains unclear, as the construction sector in Israel, where most workers are employed, has remained active. Those returning have been ordered to go into home quarantine for two weeks, however, despite some monitoring by the PA, not all returned through official crossings, with no means of ensuring that they follow the home quarantine regulations.
The access of patients referred to hospitals in East Jerusalem and Israel has been limited to emergency cases and cancer patients. The East Jerusalem Hospital Network has announced that all of their six facilities are preparing to deal with cases of COVID-19 that require clinical care, whilst continuing to suffer from chronic underfunding, which hinders the provision of medical drugs and treatment. There is an unconfirmed number of Palestinian patients with COVID-19 in East Jerusalem, in addition to the total number in the remainder of the West Bank.
Since 15 March, all incoming travellers from Egypt and Israel have been sent to isolation for 14 days. Over 1,760 people are quarantined in 25 designated sites, including the Rafah Crossing quarantine centre, health facilities, schools and hotels. All home quarantine (applied before the 15 March measure) has now ended, following completion of the mandatory 14 days. On 30 March, driven by the lack of testing resources, the authorities extended the mandatory period for people in quarantine sites from 14 to 21 days. To cope with the crisis, all non-emergency surgeries have been suspended and primary healthcare is restricted to 14 centres, which provide essential services only. Restrictions have been gradually tightening, to include closing weekly markets and public gatherings, including weddings, funerals and all prayers at mosques and churches.
Access for Palestinians from Gaza to the outside world through the two passenger crossings with Israel and Egypt is severely constrained. The Israeli-controlled Erez crossing has been largely shut down since 12 March for most permit holders, including over 5,000 labourers and traders with permits. As in the West Bank, the exit of patients has been limited to emergency cases and cancer patients. Exit to Egypt via the Rafah crossing has been halted by the Egyptian authorities as of 15 March; and opening times for entry into Gaza remain irregular and unpredictable. An estimated 400 Palestinians from Gaza are currently waiting in Egypt to return.
Movement of goods from Israel and Egypt has continued as previously, including the entry of restricted (“dual use”) items via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Crossing. The Government of Israel has offered to expedite approvals for items needed in relation to the COVID response. In a bid to minimize public gatherings and prevent transmission of COVID-19, demonstrations planned for 30 March to commemorate the “Land Day” and the second anniversary of the Great March of Return were cancelled.
On 27 March, the oPt Humanitarian Country Team released a revised Inter-Agency Response Plan for COVID-19 ove for the next three months, appealing for US$34m to prevent further transmission of the virus in the oPt; provide adequate care for patients and their families; and mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic. It expands the initial plan launched on 14 March by the Health Cluster and is fully aligned with the PA National COVID-19 Response Plan, which was released by the Office of the Prime Minister on 26 March.
Amount in US$
OPT Humanitarian Fund
|United Kingdom (DFID)||
|United Kingdom (DFID)||500,000||Received||WHO|
|Education Cannot Wait – multiple donors||771,000||Approved||UNICEF, UNRWA|
|OPT Humanitarian Fund||4,800,000||Planned reallocation||TBD|
So far, the HCT Response Plan is 25 per cent funded, including an upcoming allocation of $4.8m from the oPt Humanitarian Fund (HF), following a reorientation of the first HF Standard Allocation.
Additionally, UNRWA has launched a separate Flash Appeal, which seeks $14 million to cover COVID-19 related interventions across its five areas of operation, also for the coming 90 days.
The close cooperation between the Palestinian and Israel authorities observed since the start of the crisis, continues. The Israeli authorities have facilitated the import 10,000 testing kits by the PA. On 25 March, the Israeli Ministry of Health also held training for emergency workers in Al Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem for the conversion and preparation of the hospital to receive COVID-19 patients.
The Inter-agency Covid-19 Task Force led by the Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator (HC/RC), as well as Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG), continue regularly meetings to follow up on the implementation of the Inter-Agency Response Plan.
The HC/RC also informs the Palestinian authorities about essential movements required by humanitarian and development staff during this period of enhanced movement restrictions, while following the previously adopted Standard Operation Procedures. Where necessary, coordination with the Israeli authorities is also conducted to ensure the safe movement of staff.
As set out in the the HCT Response Plan, the main objectives of the Health Cluster response are to stop further transmission of COVID-19 in the oPt, mitigate its impact, and provide adequate care for patients affected, through the following activities:
Case Finding, Contact Tracing, Prevention and Surveillance
Laboratory testing of suspected cases and patients through respiratory disease surveillance.
In support of enhancing case management capacity health partners are working to support Ministry of Health in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Training in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC)
Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE)
The main objectives of the Protection Cluster response are to prevent and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on new and existing protection concerns, and protection mainstreaming across the Plan, through the following activities:
Ensure the inclusion of vulnerable populations into COVID-19 preparedness, prevention and response activities
Ensure that the right to health is available to all without discrimination
Scale up efforts to mitigate human rights violations related to COVID-19
The Shelter Cluster response seeks to improve vulnerable households’ capacities and resilience to reduce the spread of the pandemic, and to reduce overcrowding in shelters to mitigate its spread, through the following activities:
Shelter partners have provided assistance to the quarantine centres that have been established for incoming travellers in Gaza. Following up on the 4,500 NFIs distributed last week, another 4,150 items (mattresses, blankets, pillows, mats), 600 hygiene and female dignity kits and 300 cleaning supplies were distributed to 20 centres set up as quarantine facilities this week.
The main objectives of the Education Cluster response are to clean and disinfect all schools and public kindergartens prior to their re-opening; map out and disseminate relevant Arabic materials on hygiene awareness and preventive measures related to COVID-19; use social media platforms to raise awareness of the importance of home-based learning; and prepare and disseminate media messages to caregivers, teachers and children. These objectives are aligned with the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) Response Plan to COVID-19. The cluster’s main activities during the reporting period includes:
Ensuring adequate information and resources to prevent the spread of the pandemic:
Ensuring the continuation of learning by providing school children and their parents with access to free online platforms and home-based learning
Supporting the mental health and psychosocial well-being of students, parents and educators:
The WASH Cluster seeks to ensure continuous access to WASH services in Health Centres, key institutions and communities, to minimize the impact of the COVID-19. Activities include:
Ensuring proper access to WASH services, IPC supplies, cleaning materials and environmental cleanliness, and waste management at health-care facilities (HCF)
Support vulnerable families and communities
Support the provision of disinfectants at key WASH facilities
As set out in the HCT Response Plan, the main objective of the Food Security Cluster is to support non-refugee households whose food insecurity is directly affected by the virus outbreak with in-kind and cash assistance, including e-vouchers; and to adopt a new door-to-door delivery modality in Gaza, through the following activities:
Reducing the Food Security impact on vulnerable households and most vulnerable people