Issued 25 February 2021
- The number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased significantly in the West Bank, indicating that a potential further surge of cases might be anticipated
- On 22 February, Gaza started the COVID-19 vaccination campaign with vaccination of frontline health workers
- WHO facilitated a briefing for donors and diplomats on structural challenges to the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Gaza Strip.
WHO has delivered two items of laboratory equipment this week to the Ministry of Health’s central public health lab in Ramallah. The delivery is one of many supported by the Norwegian Government to upgrade the central lab and enhance its capacity to early detect and report public health threats, such as COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and reduce associated illness and death
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 lockdown in the West Bank announced by the Palestinian Authority in all governorates will continue until March 3. According to the Minister of Health the Emergency Committee is considering recommending a new full closure due to recent surge of cases in the West Bank
- On 18 February, local authorities in the Gaza Strip have lifted the imposed restrictions, permitting opening of gyms, sports clubs and wedding halls.
- The WHO risk assessment remains very high
- This week, the number of new COVID-19 cases has significantly increased due to a surge in the West Bank, with a 50% rise in newly recorded cases, and a 15% increase in deaths
- According to the PA MoH, a new B.1.1.7 variant (identified in the United Kingdom) was detected in 352 confirmed cases and a B.1.351 variant (identified in South Africa) was detected in 57 confirmed cases
- The overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) remains at 1.1 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
- The West Bank governorate of Ramallah accounts for the highest (17.2%) of all active cases in oPt, followed by East Jerusalem (13.3%), Gaza Strip (12.4%), Hebron (12.2%), Nablus (10%), Bethlehem (9.7%), Tulkarm (5.2 %) and Salfit (5%).
Laboratory testing and diagnostics
- The number of tests conducted in the oPt has increased by 25% during the reporting period (19 – 25 February), with 38,666 tests conducted
- In the Gaza Strip, an average of 1,714 tests per day have been conducted over the past week (19 – 25 February) with a positivity rate of 6%.
Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Isolation and Case Management, Operations Support and Logistics
- As of 25 February, the overall occupancy rate of COVID-19 dedicated hospital beds in the Gaza Strip is 9%, with 51 of 540 beds occupied. Currently, 8 of the 90 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds (9%) are occupied, with one requiring invasive mechanical ventilation
- In the West Bank, 93 people are now in the intensive care units with 23 patients requiring mechanical ventilation.
In response to the increased demand on psychotropic drugs due to the significant impact of COVID-19 pandemic on those who suffer from mental health problems such as Psychosis and Epilepsy in Palestine, WHO delivered this week two types of essential psychotropic drugs to the local health authorities in the Gaza Strip. This delivery will be enough to treat 2,000 people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders problems for a duration of six months as part of its efforts to strengthen the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services during the pandemic. Thanks to the Government of Kuwait
- Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the oPt, more than 4,800 people received their first doses in the West Bank and Gaza, with health workers in intensive care units and COVID-19 designated facilities being initially targeted as priority groups
- 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. An additional 20,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine were delivered to Gaza, on February 21, as a donation from the UAE. A total of 213 frontline healthcare workers have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, in one of three assigned vaccination centres across the Gaza Strip
- The two first vaccine deliveries from the global COVAX AMC Facility, working in partnership with WHO and UNICEF, are now expected to arrive in 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 is expected to be received in several shipments.
- WHO oPt facilitated a briefing to 28 donors and diplomats on structural challenges to the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Gaza Strip, on behalf of the oPt Health Cluster and organized with OCHA oPt. WHO, MAP-UK, PMRS and Diakonia provided presentations, focusing on overall obstacles affecting different building blocks of the health system, barriers to the emergency response, adaptations and challenges in primary care facilities, and third State responsibilities. In Dialogue conversations with a health worker and breast cancer patient in the Gaza Strip, conducted by MAP-UK and WHO, explored lived experiences of working in an oncology department and accessing essential health care during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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