COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 23 (November 18 – December 2, 2020)

COVID-19 graphic (OCHA)

OCHA  /  December 2, 2020

UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs

  •  Unprecedented surge in COVID-19; active cases double in the oPt, triple in Gaza.
  • Cumulative total of COVID-19 cases surpasses 100,000, with some 80,000 recoveries. 
  • Another 178 people die, including 62 in Gaza.

Situation Overview

 The reporting period witnessed an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases in the oPt, with over 23,000 additional Palestinians testing positive, and approximately 10,000 recovering. The number of cumulative cases has now surpassed 100,000. Active cases across the oPt more than doubled during the reporting period, from 9,748 to 23,336, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH).  Sixty-seven patients are in intensive care units (ICU), 14 of whom require mechanical ventilation. 

Some 178 people died, bringing to 854 the cumulative number of fatalities due to the virus, 736 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 118 in the Gaza Strip. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR), the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases, has remained at 0.8 per cent in the oPt since the beginning of the outbreak, the same figure as in Israel and Lebanon, but lower than Jordan (1.3 per cent), and Egypt (six per cent).

Although the health sector in the oPt is still coping with the rise in people requiring treatment for the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of an increasing risk of the system becoming overwhelmed. According to WHO, the respective authorities should put measures in place to promote greater adherence to public health.

The rise is particularly pronounced in Gaza, where active cases tripled during the reporting period. Gaza now accounts for 43 per cent of all active cases in the oPt, followed by the governorates of Nablus (15 per cent), Bethlehem (seven per cent), Hebron (6.5 per cent), Jenin (five per cent), and Ramallah (five per cent).

An increase in the number of infected health workers is also raising concerns about adherence to infection prevention and control measures in hospitals. Since the start of the academic year, more than 220 schools across the oPt have closed for up to 14 days, following confirmed COVID-19 cases among pupils or staff, or in Gaza, due to their location in a ‘red zone’. 

UNRWA’s financial crisis continues, despite the Agency securing a loan of US$20 million from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). Several smaller contributions have helped to reduce an immediate funding gap of $114 million, but are still insufficient to cover salaries, in full, for 28,000 staff for November and December. The Gaza Strip, with 13,000 employees, will be the most affected across the Agency’s five fields of operations in the Middle East. 

On 29 November, following the resumption of coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israeli security cabinet approved the transfer of NIS 2.5 billion in tax funds it had been withholding. The PA had refused to accept these transfers since May, in response to Israel’s plans to formally annex parts of the West Bank. The renewal of coordination and tax clearance is expected to alleviate the PA’s severe financial deficit, and facilitate the import of COVID-related supplies to, and the movement of patients and staff within the oPt.

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