World Health organization oPt

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 72

Issued 15 April 2021

Highlights

  • Infections in the Gaza Strip continue to increase, albeit at a slightly slower pace than a week ago. Cases now account for 64% of all active cases in the oPt
  • In the West Bank, infections are declining slowly, but the medical response situation remains critical
  • More vaccines arrive in oPt: 48,000 doses of AstraZeneca are purchased bilaterally by the PA.

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 3 April that the West Bank lockdown will continue from Sunday 4 April till 3 May, as follows:
  • Restaurants, shops, cafes, businesses, companies and ministries can 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, local authorities updated their restrictive measures, as follows:
  • Full restriction on vehicular movement in weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), and from sunset to 06:00am on weekdays
  • A complete nightly curfew from 9:00pm to 6:00am
  • Schools, universities, wedding halls, weekly open markets are to remain closed till further notice
  • Decisive public health measures and strict adherence to hygiene protocols and physical distancing continue to be essential to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Surveillance

  • The WHO risk assessment remains very high: COVID-19 infections in the Gaza Strip are showing signs of reaching a plateau but the situation remains critical
  • In the West Bank, new infections are declining slowly, but hospitals are still struggling
  • The breakdown of active COVID-19 cases across the oPt is as follows: Gaza Strip (63.9%), followed by the West Bank governorates of Nablus (12.5%), Jenin (4.9%), Tulkarm (4.2%), Hebron (3.9%), Ramallah (3.9%), Qalqilya (1.6%) and Bethlehem (1.4%)
  • The overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) across oPt remains at 1.1 %. The CFR is the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases
  • On 30 March, health authorities in Gaza confirmed the first cases detected with the new variant B.1.1.7 (first identified in the UK). This variant is known to have been driving recent cases in the West Bank as well.

Launch of World Health Day campaign towards Building a Fairer, Healthier World

Minister of Health, Dr Mai Al Kaila, and Head of WHO in the oPt, Dr Richard Peeperkorn, opened the online launch event for the year-long World Health Day campaign for 2021. The event highlighted the impacts on health of planning restrictions and demolitions in Area C, as well as severe movement restrictions for Palestinians in Gaza.

Dr Peeperkorn stated “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt differently by different groups in society. Our health depends on the policies and practices that determine our access to health care, as well as access to essential resources like water, sanitation, food and shelter.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3af5dyR

Laboratory testing and diagnostics  ​

  • The number of tests conducted in the oPt has decreased by 12% during the reporting period (9 – 15 April), with 50,761 tests conducted
  • In the Gaza Strip, an average of 3,846 tests per day have been conducted over the past week (9 – 15 April) with a positivity rate of 37%
  • In an effort to scale up testing capacity, COVID-19 antigen rapid testing is currently available at MoH and UNRWA primary healthcare centers, as well as at seven other NGO health facilities across the Gaza Strip.

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

  • The rapid hike in new COVID-19 infections in Gaza for another week in a row presents real concerns for the health sector and its ability to cope in the near future. As of 15 April, the overall occupancy rate of COVID-19 dedicated hospital beds in the Gaza Strip is 79%, with 398 of 501 beds occupied. Currently, 56 of the 61 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds (92%) are occupied, with 16 requiring invasive mechanical ventilation
  • 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%.

COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccine delivery

Latest vaccine arrivals

  • On 29 March, 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines arrived in West Bank as a donation from China: 90,000 for WB, and 10,000 for Gaza
  • On 30 March a further 25,000 AstraZeneca vaccines were also delivered to oPt from the Serum Institute of India,
  • On 13 April, 48,000 doses of AZ purchased bilaterally by the PA MoH arrived in the oPt, the first batch of purchased vaccines out of a total of 2 million
  • On 17 April, an additional 72,000 doses of AZ (WB 43,200 + Gaza 28,800) are expected to be delivered from the COVAX facility to the oPt.

Vaccination status

  • On 21 March Palestine kick-started its mass vaccination rollout campaign prioritizing medical staff at government and private hospitals, patients with kidney and cancer conditions, and the elderly
  • As of 14 April, 156,446 people have been vaccinated in total across the oPt: 121,866 in the West Bank, and 34,580 in Gaza. These figures represent around 3% of the total Palestinian population
  • Israel continues to administer the second doses of vaccinations to over 100,000 Palestinian workers. They are expected to complete the programme on 20 April 2021 (Source – COGAT FB).

Future COVAX consignments (estimates)

  • A further 144,000 doses of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccines are due to arrive through COVAX in batches by end of June, bringing the total number of AZ vaccines arriving in oPt through COVAX to 168,000
  • An additional 102,960 doses of Pfizer vaccines have also been allocated to the oPt through the COVAX mechanism, with expected delivery date end of Q2.

What is WHO’s position on the safety of the Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine?   

On 7 April 2021, the WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GAVCS), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK’s regulator (MHRA) issued statements. All concluded that the benefits of taking the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine outweigh the very rare potential risks. WHO advises countries should continue to vaccinate with the AZ vaccine, which has saved millions of lives and prevented serious illness.

More local information