Palestinians overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients as Israel loosens restrictions

Middle East Monitor  /  March 10, 2021

Palestinian hospitals and intensive-care units are overwhelmed by rising numbers of coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced yesterday.

“The percentage of hospital occupancy in some areas is more than 100 per cent of their official capacity,” said Shtayyeh. “The number of casualties is increasing and the number of deaths is increasing on a daily basis, forcing us to take strict, direct, and unprecedented measures.”

While Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the past two weeks to control rising Covid-19 infections, Israel has started opening restaurants, bars, and cafes as it eases its lockdown restrictions. Israel has given 53 per cent of its 9 million population at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Health Ministry data, and 38 per cent have received both doses.

According to Wafa news agency, the West Bank, where 3.1 million Palestinians live, has suffered a significant increase in the number of new infections. Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila has reported a total of 2,331 new Covid-19 cases and 27 deaths today. Of the new cases, 2,163 are patients in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 168 are in the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Monday, following delays and debates about ethics, Israel extended its vaccination programme to include Palestinian labourers who work in the country and its illegal West Bank settlements. International human rights groups and UN officials have called out Israel for shirking its responsibility for the Palestinians as the occupying power under international law.

The Palestinian Authority expects to receive an initial COVAX shipment of vaccines within weeks. It says that it has supply deals with Russia and AstraZeneca, although doses have been slow to reach the occupied Palestinian territories.