Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 55

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 55

Issued 10 December 2020


  • The oPt continues to witness a surge of COVID-19 cases with sustained community transmission
  • The risk that the health system may reach capacity limits and get overwhelmed remains high
  • WHO mobilized additional testing kits to sustain testing capacity and to address temporary gaps in laboratory supplies in the Gaza Strip
  • WHO and UNICEF continue to support the Palestinian Authority in comprehensive planning and preparatory efforts to introduce of COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021 through the Gavi COVAX AMC Facility

In response to depletion of COVID-19 tests announced by local health authorities in Gaza on December 7, WHO procured 295 kits to perform around 28,000 tests. The first 195 kits (to provide 18,720 tests) were delivered on 7 December and enabled the lab to resume testing, with the remaining tests to be delivered in coming days. This delivery is generously funded by the Governments of Kuwait and Germany.

WHO preparedness, readiness and response

WHO is continuing to work with partners to support Ministry of Health’s (MoH) efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Key Performance Indicators for COVID-19 Response in oPt ​

Coordination, planning and monitoring​

“We welcome the 18 European Union representatives and ambassadors to the Gaza Strip to share first-hand information on how WHO supports the local health authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic during this difficult time. The EU is a key supporter of our COVID-19 response in Gaza, alongside other donors,” said Sacha Bootsma, Head of WHO Gaza Sub-office (pictured top) who met the delegation with WHO Head of Office, Dr Gerald Rockenschaub on December 7. The group visited the European Gaza Hospital, to get first-hand information on the achievements and challenges of COVID-19 case management. Headed by EU Representative, Sven von Burgsdorff, the delegation was briefed on chronic shortages of medical supplies and equipment as well as urgent priority needs of Gaza’s health system to contain the recent surge of cases. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the EU has

generously supported WHO to strengthen the local health system with provision of critical medical supplies and equipment, training and technical support.

The following new measures were initiated by the Palestinian Authority across the West Bank to help curb the spread of the virus for the period from 10- 17 December:

  • The governorates of Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Tulkarm will be closed and the night closure will continue in all governorates. Movement between all governorates is banned during this period, except for the transportation of agricultural, service and food products. Emergency committees in all governorates shall be reactivated and governmental, civil, and private institutions shall operate upon the emergency system
  • All retail and service stores shall be closed, except pharmacies, bakeries, supermarkets, and grocery stores
  • Weddings, funerals, and all types of gatherings shall be prohibited in all regions and prayers to be conducted from home
  • Financial penalties will apply to those who violate these procedures and the precautionary measures. All stores that violate these procedures shall be closed.

In the Gaza Strip:

  • A weekend curfew (from 18:30 Friday to Saturday) will start on 11 December until the end of the month, as part of new movement restrictions introduced by local authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19
  • Schools (except secondary level), universities, mosques, markets are to close and funerals and weddings are not permitted
  • On December 10, authorities announced that during curfew periods only emergency services (urgent surgeries and deliveries) will be provided in NGO and private health institutions. All other services will be suspended. Private pharmacies can work over weekends
  • WHO strongly advocates that communities implement effective prevention protocols to help curb the current increasing transmission trends, to save lives and to ease the pressure on the health system.

“This contribution from the Italian Government comes at a crucial time, when Palestine is experiencing a concerning dynamic of increasing community spread of COVID-19 and there is a mounting risk that the health system may reach its capacity limits and get overwhelmed,” Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, WHO’s Head of Office, thanked the Italian Government this week for its EUR 400,000 contribution towards WHO activities to support the Inter-Agency COVID-19 Response Plan for Palestine.

Pictured is the Consul General of Italy, Mr Giuseppe Fedele. The funding will support the scaling up of testing capacity,

expanding hospital-bed and intensive care treatment capacities, and training in infection prevention and control. It will strengthen WHO’s efforts to support the MoH and partners in the oPt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to help protect the most vulnerable people from COVID-19.

Laboratory diagnostics  ​

WHO continues to address gaps and depletion of COVID-19 tests in the Gaza Strip by delivering COVID-19 extraction kits to support 4,000 tests. Additional 195 detection kits (providing supplies for 18,720 tests) were delivered on December 7. Testing is an important cornerstone of the COVID-19 response as it prevents further transmission, identifies those who may need care and helps authorities understand how prevalent the virus is so they can make evidence-based decisions to slow the spread of the disease.

  • The number of tests conducted in the oPt has decreased by 18% during the reporting period (4 – 10 December), with 45,681 tests conducted compared to the previous week
  • Provision of predictable flow of testing kits and supplies remains a major challenge. WHO has been a main supplier of testing kits to Gaza, which will be unsustainable in the long run. Additional resources are needed from the international community to address priority gaps, and further support from the Palestinian Authority is needed to ensure equitable delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment to the Gaza Strip.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Isolation and Case Management, Operations Support and Logistics 

“We did not know how to wear the personal protective equipment, and we learned during the course how to wear it properly. Learning this protected us from the coronavirus,” said Ghazi Akeela, one of 250 Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance personnel and Ministry of Health emergency medical workers who completed a six-week online training course run by disaster relief specialists NYCMedics and supported by WHO in the Gaza Strip.  The sessions included COVID-19 technical guidance on infection, prevention and control. WHO plans to use the course as a model for distance-training in Gaza.   

  • In the Gaza Strip, the overall occupancy rate of dedicated COVID-19 hospital beds is 66%, with 341 of 520 beds occupied. Currently, of the 70 Intensive Care Unit beds, 45 or 64% are occupied, including 56 patients on ventilators, both invasive and non-invasive

WHO has delivered the following essential medical equipment to the Gaza Strip to support the COVID-19 response and emergency preparedness:

  • Five patient monitors to Gaza’s COVID-19 designated health facility, the European Gaza Hospital to monitor patients’ vital signs
  • 500 oxygen nasal cannulas to the Respiratory Triage Centres, which provide oxygen to patients with respiratory difficulties
  • 18 desktops to the Palestinian Health Information Centre to improve data collection at the MoH.

WHO delivered 54,000 litres of fuel to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Al-Quds hospital, through UNRWA. The fuel was funded by EU Humanitarian AID. Dr Bashar Murad, EMS Director at PRCS said the delivery will help PRCS maintain its emergency services in the Gaza Strip, “we usually receive around 200 emergency calls every day, and we expect this number to get to 450 [during the pandemic].”​

COVID-19 vaccination: ​

  • On 7 December, the Palestinian Authority submitted its application to receive financial support from the Gavi COVAX AMC Facility for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, for at least 20% of population in the oPt, including frontline health workers, the elderly population and those with underlying health conditions. WHO and UNICEF provide technical support to complete preparatory efforts the COVAX application
  • With support of UNICEF, WHO and UNRWA, work continues across the oPt to finalise the assessment of the cold chain capacity for COVID-19 vaccination and to prepare an application to support the upgrade of the cold chain system
  • The PA MoH with support from partners is proceeding with the development of the COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan which would outline costed strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines in the oPt, including transportation and storage, training of health staff and communication outreach
  • More details available at the COVAX Facility website.


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