november 19, 2020
UN office for the coordination of Human Assistance (OCHA)
- Active COVID-19 cases continue to rise; 103 more people die.
- Gaza accounts for 39 per cent of active cases and recorded another 19 fatalities.
- 121,000 Palestinians lost their jobs in the second quarter of 2020, according to the World Bank.
During the reporting period, over 12,600 additional Palestinians in the oPt tested positive for COVID-19, and approximately 10,250 recovered. The rise in active cases continues, from 7,455 at the end of the previous reporting period, to 9,748, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH). Some 103 people died, bringing to 676 the cumulative number of fatalities due to the virus, 620 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 56 in the Gaza Strip. Forty-three patients are in intensive care units (ICU), 10 of whom require mechanical ventilation, according to the MoH.
Gaza accounts for 39 per cent of all active cases in the oPt, followed by Nablus (17 per cent), Bethlehem (nine per cent), Hebron (six per cent), and Ramallah (5.8 per cent),
The official figures are believed to significantly underestimate the actual number of people who have contracted the virus, due to the policy implemented in West Bank by the MoH, whereby only those showing possible symptoms, as well as travellers, are being tested. According to the Palestinian Minister of Health, the true number of cases may be as much as three times higher than the official figure. She attributed the continuing increase in cases to people not abiding by preventive measures and continuing to attend public events, such as wedding celebrations.
The Palestinian Prime Minister’s Office has established a National Coordination Committee to ensure that the health system is ready when a vaccine is made available. The oPt is eligible to receive financial support for immunisation of an estimated 20 per cent of its population considered most vulnerable, such as health workers, people aged over 65, and those with pre-existing health conditions.
The World Bank projected a decline of about eight per cent in the economy of the oPt in 2020, primarily due to COVID-19 related restrictions, while indicating that some 121,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs in the second quarter of the year alone. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics issued the findings of its labour force survey for the third quarter of 2020, which show that the unemployment rate rose to 28.5 per cent of 2020, up from 24.6 per cent in the equivalent period of 2019, with a sharp divergence between Gaza, 48.6 per cent, in contrast to 18.7 per cent in the West Bank.
A serious financial crisis affecting UNRWA may result in further deterioration of the socioeconomic conditions. On 9 November, the agency announced that it had run out of money to pay the November salaries of its 28,000 staff across its five fields of operations in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip, with 13,000 employees, will be the most affected. The Agency needs to raise US$70 million by the end of November to pay full salaries for November and December.
On 17 November it was announced that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has agreed to resume coordination with the Israeli authorities, which has been suspended since May in response to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. This is expected to facilitate the import of COVID-related supplies to, and the movement of patients and staff within the oPt.
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