• World Health organization oPt

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 56

Issued 17 December 2020


  • The oPt continues to witness a rise of COVID-19 cases, with a 30% increase in deaths in the reporting period
  • The Palestinian Authority extends and broadens public health restrictions in the West Bank in response to the surge in cases
  • The risk that the health system may reach capacity limits and get overwhelmed remains high
  • WHO continues to mobilize essential medical equipment and supplies to support the response
  • Preparations to introduce COVID-19 vaccines in early to mid 2021 continue
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WATCH NOW: WHO delivered a further batch of of ventilators to Gaza to strengthen intensive care unit treatment capacity patients with severe COVID-19 disease . The delivery included 72 CPAP masks to support breathing. This was made possible thanks to EU Humanitarian Aid.

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.

Coordination, planning and monitoring​

On December 17, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced new public health restrictions (expanding restrictions previously in place from 10-17 December) for two weeks in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the West Bank:

  • Movement will be prohibited in all governorates Friday and Saturday, and all governorates will be closed nightly from 19:00 to 6:00. Movement between governorates is prohibited for two weeks, including  Jerusalem with exemptions for medical teams and essential retailers
  • All hospitals, including private hospitals must make provisions to receive COVID-19 patients
  • Pharmacies and bakeries will remain open, while hairdressers and clubs must close and restaurants and coffee shops are restricted to delivery only
  • All schools for all levels and universities to close from 20 December and shift to distance learning
  • No entry to governorates, villages, cities or camps with high numbers of
    COVID-19 cases
  • Restrictions and conditions will apply for Palestinian workers transiting outside of West Bank
  • Prayers in mosques and churches must follow special protocols. All weddings, funerals and gatherings continue to be prohibited
  • Government institutions are to operate according to the state of emergency

In the Gaza Strip, the weekend curfew (from 18:30 Friday to Saturday) and other restrictions on gatherings, health and education service delivery continue until the end of the month, as part of measures introduced by local authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19.


  • The WHO risk assessment remains very high
  • The oPt continues to witness an increase in COVID-19 cases, with significant community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 over the reporting period
  • The number of deaths rose by 33% in the oPt and the overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) rose by 0.1 to 0.9 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
  • Gaza accounts for 35.3% of all active cases, followed by the West Bank governorates of Nablus (16.3%), Hebron (7.8%), Jenin and Ramallah (7%) Bethlehem (5.2%), East Jerusalem (5.8%) and Tulkarm (4.1%)
  • On 17 December, 1,015 cases were reported in Gaza, the highest daily record since the start of the pandemic. On the same day, 12 deaths were reported, the second highest daily death toll  recorded so far
  • In West Bank, the second highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic was reported on 15 December with 1,598
  • WHO continues to strongly advocate 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.

Laboratory testing and diagnostics  ​

  • The number of tests conducted in the oPt has decreased by 6% during the reporting period (11 – 17 December), with 42,965 tests conducted compared to the previous week.  As of 17 December, MoH Gaza reported enough COVID-19 tests for 10 days until 26 December
  • Provision of predictable flow of COVID-19 testing kits and supplies remains a major challenge, particularly in light of the increased need for testing due to the surge in case numbers
  • In the Gaza Strip, an average of 1,700 tests per day have been conducted in the past week (8-16 December) with a positivity rate of 35%, indicating testing needs to be scaled up. Local health authorities are strengthening staff capacity at the central laboratory to increase testing  to 2,500 PCR tests per day. The arrival of two extra PCR machines funded by the Government of Germany in the coming weeks is expected to boost capacity to 3,500 tests per day
  • To support testing, WHO delivered 23,000 swabs on 14 December and a further 100 COVID-19 testing kits (providing 9,600 tests) will arrive by the end of the month.

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

A major challenge for local authorities in Gaza dealing with the COVID-19 response has been building the capacity of the health workforce to manage critically and seriously ill COVID-19 patients. WHO conducted a Basic Assessment and Support in Intensive Care (BASIC) training of trainers for intensive care specialists in the Gaza Strip on December 15. The course was specifically focusing  on treatment and management of critical COVID-19 patients and was led by Prof. Charles Gomersall of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Trainers put their skills into action and trained 10 junior doctors to prepare for their work in intensive care units of dedicated
COVID-19 hospitals in Gaza. Thanks to the Government of Germany for supporting this training. 

  • In the Gaza Strip, the overall occupancy rate of dedicated COVID-19 hospital beds is 69%, with 364 of 530 beds occupied. Currently, of the 90 Intensive Care Unit beds, 48 or 53% are occupied, including 4 patients on ventilators, both invasive and non-invasive.

WATCH NOW: See how one of the world’s leading disaster relief medical organisations – NYCMedics – used online training – funded by WHO – to help emergency medical staff and paramedics in Gaza cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. ​

COVID-19 vaccination: ​

  • Work continues to support the MoH 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, with support of UNICEF, WHO and UNRWA
  • The Palestinian Authority MoH with support from partners is proceeding with the development of the COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan to outline costed strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines in the oPt.

Risk Communication and Community Engagement: 

Social media card explaining how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when you’re indoors in winter. 

Make a decision as a family on how to manage visits during the COVID-19 outbreak, suggests this social media card. 

  • The national COVID-19 Risk Communication and Community Engagement campaign, led by UNICEF, WHO and Ministry of Health is working on a comprehensive plan to support a vaccine safety campaign to prepare for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine(s) anticipated in early to mid 2021
  • The campaign continues to share health communication messages (pictured) across social media, radio, billboards regularly, to address the increasing number of cases in the oPt. Campaign content has been viewed more than 38 million times on social media since the beginning of the pandemic
  • The latest COVID-19 fortnightly messages are available for download and all COVID-19 campaign messages (including brochures, videos, social media cards) are available here.