Third wave shows signs of slowing, hospitals still at max

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (C), speaks during the launch of the national vaccination campaign at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, with the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Thor Winsland, the European Union representative to Palestine Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorf, the Minister of Health Mai Al-Kaila, and a number of consuls ambassadors, on March 21, 2021. (Photo: Prime Minister Office/APA Images)

The Latest:

  • 831,228 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 813,356 recoveries; 6,164 deaths
  • 261,901 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 233,852 recoveries; 2,787 deaths
  • Of those who tested positive, 172,084 live in the West Bank; 61,465 live in Gaza; and 28,352 live in East Jerusalem 

It’s one week into vaccination campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza, and while the rates of spread from the third wave of the virus have finally decreased, hospitalizations and deaths have stayed high. For the last two weeks most ICUs in the West Bank have been over 100% capacity. This week the ICUs are still overrun, non-intensive hospital beds are at 97% capacity, however ventilator usage dipped down to 47%.

In the last 24 hours there were 20 new deaths reported, and 43 in the last 48 hours. The CFR is still at 1.1%, meaning the rate of deaths haven’t increased, but overall deaths have. The raise that we are seeing is proportional to the overall rise in new cases from the last few weeks. 

The big picture: According to the WHO’s latest situation report, there was a 5% decline in new cases over the last seven days, which is a remarkable turnaround from the 50% jump in new cases, over a seven-day average, we saw just one month ago. 

Part of why this third wave is finally coming under control is because officials reinstated stringent lockdown measures which have ebbed and flowed in their severity during the pandemic. On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority loosened the closures, allowing restaurants, shops, and government buildings to operate at 30% capacity. In Gaza, where lockdown measures were lifted entirely earlier this month, new nighttime curfews are taking effect beginning this Saturday. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Palestinians will be forced to stay in their homes. Once again weddings and public funerals are prohibited, however, indoor wedding halls can still hold mass events with up to 100 people. 

The reemergence of COVID-19 has not been as aggressive in Gaza as in the West Bank over recent months, which could explain the reasoning behind the less strident lockdown orders. Over the last week, there was an 87% decline in new COVID-19 cases in Gaza, for more or less the same number of laboratory tests conducted the week prior. 

The national vaccination campaign 

A Palestinian healthcare worker opens a cooler of vaccines as he prepares to administer shots at a UNRWA clinic, in Gaza City on March 25, 2021. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA Images)

A Palestinian healthcare worker opens a cooler of vaccines as he prepares to administer shots at a UNRWA clinic, in Gaza City on March 25, 2021. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA Images)

Right now the national vaccination campaign is off to a slow start. It kicked off on Sunday, with shipments from the GAVI Alliance and UNICEF through the COVAX program. As of Thursday, 13,499 were given their first shot in the West Bank, and 15,986 in Gaza.  

“People in both the West Bank and Gaza desperately need these vaccines,” Dr Ayadil Saparbekov, acting WHO Head of Office for West Bank and Gaza, said Sunday. “Today’s delivery can give Palestinians a sense of hope that life can return to normal.”

Here is what has arrived:

  • 60,000 doses of Sputnik V from the UAE to Gaza
  • 10,000 doses of Sputnik V from Russia to the West Bank
  • 2,000 doses of Moderna from Israel to the West Bank
  • 14,400 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX to the West Bank
  • 9,600 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX to Gaza
  • 25,740 doses of Pfizer from COVAX to the West Bank
  • 11,700 doses of Pfizer from COVAX to Gaza 
  • 120,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel were vaccinated by Israel with the Moderna vaccine since the beginning of the month

Biden admin sends $15 million to Palestinians

A Palestinian boy enjoys the beach during a sunset in Gaza City on March 24, 2021. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

A Palestinian boy enjoys the beach during a sunset in Gaza City on March 24, 2021. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

The State Department announced this week that it had donated $15 million to Catholic Relief Services to fund COVID-19 treating facilities in the West Bank and Gaza, and emergency food support. “President Biden is committed to working with our partners on COVID-19, a top national security priority,” the statement read.

In 2018, former President Donald Trump cut $300 million in funding to Palestinian refugees through the UN. The Biden administration vowed to restore the funding, which has yet to happen. The $15 million, through USAID, marks the first funds designated to the Palestinians since the new administration began in January.

That’s it for this week. Take care and stay safe! 😷😷

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