Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) WHO Situation Report 69

World Health organization oPt

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 69

Issued 25 March 2021


  • The Palestinian National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign kicked off on Sunday 21 March, days after the arrival of Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX mechanism
  • The COVID-19 virus is showing some signs of abating in the West Bank but hospital beds and ICUs continue to be at, or near, full capacity
  • Numbers of cases in Gaza have doubled in one week
  • 29,485 people have been vaccinated in total across the oPt (as of 25 March): 13,499 in the West Bank, and 15,986 in Gaza.

National Vaccination Plan Launches

Palestine kicks off its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. With 61,400 doses in total delivered to West Bank and Gaza through COVAX, the focus is on vaccinating priority groups: frontline health workers, elderly, chronically ill, and those with underlying health conditions. WHO officials highlight the important work of COVAX.


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 PA announced on 20 March that that the West Bank lockdown will continue from Sunday 21 March till 3 April, with the following amendments:
  • Restaurants, shops, cafes, businesses, companies and ministries can now operate at 30% capacity
  • Pharmacies and bakeries to be able to continue to operate
  • No movement between governorates including the city of Jerusalem, except for medical personnel, essential goods and food
  • Governors will decide the exceptions for the opening of any sectors
  • Fines will be issued for breaches of safety measures
  • In the Gaza Strip, the following restriction measures were also announced in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases:
  • Night curfew (21:00 – 07:00) imposed as of Saturday 27 March, 2021
  • Weddings and funerals held in the streets are banned. A maximum of 100 persons are allowed in wedding halls, with strict public health measures
  • All forms of gatherings in parks and open areas are banned
  • Decisive public health measures and strict adherence to hygiene protocols + physical distancing continue to be essential to reduce the spread of COVID-19.


  • The WHO risk assessment remains very high: the number of new COVID-19 cases in the West Bank is decreasing slightly, but the daily death toll remains high (43 in the last 48 hours)
  • Many West Bank hospitals are at full capacity, with 97% occupancy of hospital beds and 100% occupancy in ICUs. Ventilator usage is at 47%
  • The West Bank governorate of Nablus (21.9%) still accounts for the highest of all active cases in oPt, followed by Gaza Strip  (14.8%), Hebron (14.2%),  Tulkarm (8.8%), Ramallah (8.4%), Jenin (8.3%), Bethlehem (6.9%), East Jerusalem (4.9%)
  • The overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) remains at 1.1 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
  • Infections across oPt are being exacerbated by the spread of new variants, in particular the variant B.1.1.7 (identified in the UK)
  • WHO in Gaza is monitoring the emergence of new mutations of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip, and sending samples to Ramallah or Israel for variant testing.

Handicraft kits to Improve Mental Health

WHO delivered handicraft kits for developing handicraft and food processing skills of 600 mental health patients. This is part of WHO’s  support to the mental health rehabilitation program at community mental health centres in the Gaza Strip.

COVID-19 Vaccine  

  • Palestine kick-started its mass vaccination rollout campaign on 21 March prioritizing medical staff at government and private hospitals, patients with kidney and cancer conditions, and the elderly
  • At a ceremony held at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh listed some of the expected upcoming vaccine shipments for Palestine – in addition to the first COVAX shipments of AstraZeneca and Pfizer which arrived on 16 and 17 March respectively, for both West Bank and Gaza
  • A shipment of 40,000 doses of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Gaza on 11 March, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), bringing to 60,000 the total number of donated Sputnik V vaccines from the UAE
  • A further 10,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines were also previously donated by Russia, and 2,000 doses of Moderna vaccines by Israel
  • A further 144,000 doses of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccines are due to arrive through COVAX in batches at the end of March and end of April, bringing the total number of AZ vaccines arriving in oPt to 168,000
  • 29,485 people were vaccinated in total across the oPt as of 25 March: 13,499 in the West Bank, and 15,986 in Gaza, targeting frontline healthcare workers. In Gaza, this took place in one of eight assigned vaccination centres
  • 155,000 people have registered to be vaccinated in total in the West Bank through the portal
  • Israel has also vaccinated around 120,000 Palestinian workers over a two-week period and are due to receive their second doses
  • On the controversy surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine the WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) concluded on 19 March that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to have a “positive benefit-risk profile, with tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths across the world” and that a causal relationship between rare events of blood clots reported in a handful of cases after vaccination with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine “has not been established at this time”.

COVAX Vaccines Breakdown (AstraZeneca / Pfizer – West Bank / Gaza Strip)

The first COVAX arrivals in oPt on 16 and 17 March included:  

  • 61,440 vaccine doses in total, of which 24,000 were AstraZeneca, and 37,440 were Pfizer
  • A total of 40,140 doses went to cold storage units in West Bank, and 21,300 doses in total to Gaza
  • AstraZeneca: 14,400 doses to WB; 9,600 to Gaza 
  • Pfizer: 25,740 doses to WB; 11,700 to Gaza.

Laboratory testing and diagnostics  ​

  • The number of tests conducted in the oPt remains around the same as the week before, for the reporting period 18 – 25 March, with 53,482 tests conducted
  • In the Gaza Strip, an average of 2,620 tests per day have been conducted over the past week (19 – 25 March) with a positivity rate of 15%.

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

  • As of 25 March, the overall occupancy rate of COVID-19 dedicated hospital beds in the Gaza Strip is 31%, with 168 of 540 beds occupied. Currently, 21 of the 90 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds (23%) are occupied, with six requiring invasive mechanical ventilation. Gaza health authorities are planning to increase the number of dedicated COVID-19 ICU and high dependency beds
  • The COVID-19 designated hospitals in the West Bank are near their full capacity, with 97% occupancy of hospital beds and 100% occupancy in ICUs. Ventilator usage is at 47%
  • In the Gaza Strip, following the training of 10 trainers (ToT) held last week, WHO supported a two-day training of the first cohort of 20 nurses, in fundamentals of intensive care nursing. A total of 200 junior nurses are expected to be trained by the end of May.

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