April 7, 2021. Earlier this week, the Health Ministry in Gaza reported a spike in coronavirus cases in the Strip, with more than 75,000 confirmed cases to date, including 15,500 active cases, and 642 deaths. The number of active cases in Gaza increased by more than 100 percent over a seven-day period, according to the ministry. In the first week of April alone, 1,500 new cases were reported daily, with the rate of positive tests ranging between 27 and 44 percent per day. The Ministry of Health believes the spike has been caused, in part, due to the British variant, the first cases of which were officially identified in Gaza just a week or so ago.
A source in the Strip told Gisha that there is concern that the actual number of active cases could be even higher than the testing indicates. Given Gaza’s high unemployment rate, some residents forgo getting tested because they cannot afford to lose workdays and jeopardize the income needed to support their families.
In response to the dramatic rise in the number of active cases and the high infection rate, local authorities in Gaza have imposed a number of measures to curb the spread of the virus. Government offices, schools, and universities have been shuttered, with students studying remotely. A nightly curfew will be enforced starting at 9 PM .
In recent weeks, Gaza medical teams and residents aged 55 and over began receiving vaccines. About 27,000 people have received the first dose, and 8,000 have received both doses of the vaccine. However, the total number of vaccines available in Gaza still falls far short of what is needed for its two million residents. So far, a total of 81,600 vaccines have entered the Strip in total, purchased either by the Palestinian Authority or donated by the international community.
On March 25, Gisha and five other human rights organizations petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to demand that Israel take immediate steps to ensure supply of the vaccine to the entire Palestinian population under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. The petition was filed amid a spike in morbidity and infection rates in the Strip. The petitioning organizations emphasize that Israel has legal, moral, and ethical obligations toward Palestinians given its ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, pursuant to both international law and Israeli jurisprudence.
The petition (Hebrew) states that according to Israeli Ministry of Health, more than 90 percent of the population must be inoculated in order to stop the spread of the virus. The high morbidity rate in the West Bank and Gaza, the insufficient supply of vaccines available to Palestinians, and the uncertainty regarding access to additional vaccines, continue to put lives at risk, highlighting the urgent need to ensure vaccine supply for the Palestinian population.