Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 64

Issued 18 February 2021

Highlights

  • The number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased significantly in the West Bank, indicating a potential further surge of cases might be anticipated
  • Following the decline of COVID-19 cases in the Gaza Strip over recent weeks, the number of acute cases has started to increase again
  • The PA Ministry of Health sent initial quantities of COVID-19 vaccines to Gaza, while current vaccine shortages delay a broader rollout of the vaccination campaign.

“This delivery will enable all our frontline health workers to protect themselves when they manage suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients from East Jerusalem,” Dr Maher Deeb, the medical director of East Jerusalem’s St Joseph Hospital upon receiving a shipment of personal protective equipment from WHO including masks, gloves and sterilizers to support the COVID-19 response. Thanks to funding from the Government of Kuwait.  

WHO preparedness, readiness and response

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

Coordination, planning and monitoring​

  • The Palestinian Authority announced the lockdown will be extended in the West Bank in all governorates until March 3 and the following restrictions will apply:
  • No movement between governorates including the city of Jerusalem, except for medical personnel, essential goods and food
  • Total overnight lockdown continues from 1900 to 0600 nightly (except for pharmacies and bakeries)
  • Total weekend lockdown from Thursday 1900 to Sunday 0600 (except for pharmacies and bakeries)
  • Schools and pre-schools for all levels continue and face-to-face education starts for tertiary education (where virtual classes are not available)
  • A sub-national Health Cluster meeting, coordinated by WHO with participation of Gaza health authorities, took place on 16 February, in the Gaza Strip. During the meeting, partners were updated on the health situation in the Gaza Strip, focusing on areas related to the COVID-19 response, COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and the (2021-2025) strategic health plan, highlighting key areas for partners interventions
  • In the Gaza Strip, starting from March, European Gaza Hospital will resume regular pre-COVID-19 services, while one department will be assigned for COVID-19 case management. The Turkish Hospital will become the main COVID-19 treatment facility, in addition to dedicated wards in other public hospitals (Shifa, Nasser, Indonesian, and Aqsa hospitals).

Surveillance

  • The WHO risk assessment remains very high
  • This week, the number of new COVID-19 cases increased, with a 19% rise in newly recorded cases, while a 2% increase in deaths was recorded
  • The overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) remains at 1.1 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
  • Gaza now accounts for 19.7% of all active cases in oPt, followed by the West Bank governorates of Ramallah (16%), East Jerusalem (13.6%), Nablus (9.4%), Hebron (8.9%), Bethlehem (7.7%), Salfit (5.8%), Tulkarm (4.1 %) and Jenin (3.4%)
  • While the weekly numbers of newly detected cases in Gaza continued to go down, in the past few days the daily numbers started to increase from 75 cases to 154 (from 15 – 17 February 2021), potentially linked to the introduction of new variants and new cases, as Rafah border crossing continues to be open
  • In the West Bank, cases have significantly increased again this week, almost doubling since last week, indicating a second surge of cases is underway, most likely due to new variants in the population
  • WHO is concerned about the new variants of COVID-19 (B.1.1.7 identified in the United Kingdom, B.1.351 in South Africa and E484K in Brazil). Thirteen countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region have reported cases of at least one of the three new variants reported globally, including those which may have higher transmission rates. Some new variants are associated with greater contagion and could cause an increase in cases and hospitalization and have a negative effect on other essential health services
  • The appearance of new variants has raised questions about the potential impact of vaccines on these variants. In some cases, mutations could affect the response to vaccines, and global efforts need to be enhanced to adapt vaccines, so they remain effective. It also highlights the need to vaccinate as many people as possible before they get exposed to new variants
  • While the vaccines are a tremendous breakthrough for the response to the pandemic, they are not enough.  The cornerstone of the response remains our adherence to public health and social measures to suppress transmission, save lives, and prevent already saturated health systems from being overwhelmed. Masks, social distancing, good hygiene practices and avoidance of mass gatherings remain just as important today as at any time during the pandemic. These proven public health measures could also limit the possibility of more dangerous variants of the virus appearing.

Laboratory testing and diagnostics  ​

  • The number of tests conducted in the oPt has increased by 5% during the reporting period (12 – 18 February), with 30,899 tests conducted
  • In the Gaza Strip, an average of 1,936 tests per day have been conducted over the past week (12 – 18 February) with a positivity rate of 7%. In the Gaza Strip, health authorities reported enough COVID-19 tests (PCR) for 75 days, until 4 May (as of 18 February).

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

  • As of 18 February, the overall occupancy rate of COVID-19 dedicated hospital beds in the Gaza Strip is 10%, with 52 of 540 beds occupied. Currently, 6 of the 90 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds (7%) are occupied, with one patient requiring invasive mechanical ventilation.

COVID-19 Vaccine  

  • The MoH reported the first batch of vaccines (2.000 doses) for Gaza arrived on February 17, with two doses of Sputnik V to vaccinate and protect 1.000 frontline health workers.
  • Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the oPt, more than 4.422 people received their first doses in the West Bank, with health workers in intensive care units and COVID-19 designated facilities being initially targeted as priority group
  • On February 15, the Palestinian Authority said it had to slow down the rollout of vaccinations for COVID-19 due to delays in anticipated vaccine deliveries. The PA MoH originally launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on 2 February with 2.000 doses of Moderna vaccines and 10.000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines
  • The two first vaccine deliveries from the global COVAX AMC Facility, working in partnership with WHO and UNICEF, are expected to arrive in the coming weeks (by late February or early March) including:
  • 37,440 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines for prioritizing frontline health workers, subject to approvals of supply agreements with the manufacturer
  • A further allocation of 240.000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines
  • On 15 February, the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use by WHO, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through the COVAX Facility. The vaccines, produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India, were reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which issued respective recommendations. The SAGE recommended the AstraZeneca #COVID19 vaccine for all age groups 18 & above. Find out more about the vaccine here.

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