Written by Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary
Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees
Jerusalem, May 28, 2020
On Covid-19 it looks like some down trending in infections and speeding up of recoveries have occurred across the region. The relatively low mortality experienced in the countries where DSPR works is due according to analysts to ‘demographic good fortune’ with more younger generations in the population and the fact that this virus is age-gradient, meaning that the elderly are more prone to infections than the younger groups. The death rate per million population according to worldometers is 0.6 for Palestine; 0.9 for Lebanon and Jordan and 31 for Israel.
In contrast Germany and Finland hailed as having successfully dealt with the pandemic have death rates per million of 102 and 56, respectively. The figures for Spain with 580/million; Italy with 547/million; UK with 552/million and France with 438/million may indeed corroborate what some analysts here say about ‘the demographic good fortune.’ Early preventive and restrictive measures, especially the strict lock down, taken by the various governments in the region also helped reign in the spreading of the virus.
The Gaza Strip has seen 3 new cases among those quarantined making the total number of infected 61. The Ministry of Health in Gaza says that all cases are within the quarantine centers and that it has done close to 2,000 tests in the 18 quarantine centers in the Gaza Strip. We keep our fingers crossed for Gaza as some health experts there are concerned that with those infected may have indeed come in contact with others outside the quarantine centers. Besides the easing up of restrictions over the just concluded end of Ramadan holiday may contribute to a rise. DSPR Gaza has always been office operational during the pandemic and has taken the needed precautions to ensure the safety of visitors to the three primary health clinics which their operations continuing uninterrupted. Starting June 1st, the vocational training centers will reopen to welcome the trainees except for the Secretariat and Graphic Design trainees that will continue with online learning. The Dressmaking course which hosts 23 women will also resume in the office with social distance and precautionary measures ensured.
Elsewhere in Palestine, the total cases with the 3 new cases in Gaza and 5 new ones in the Hebron district went up to 613 of whom 365 have fully recovered. The Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh has declared the easing of restrictions and the gradual opening of the West Bank. Houses of worship, shops and factories as well as government ministries and offices are all expected to open as of Wednesday May 27, 2020. Travel across the different governorates in the West Bank is allowed and the checkpoints that Palestinian police had placed to halt circulation were lifted. DSPR West Bank Office work was resumed early in May. Currently assessment is being made on implementing the various projects and activities which include the construction of needed rural roads deemed essential for the farmers hard hit by the closures. Other activities planned are water distribution and ACT Alliance relief operations for animal feed to the Bedouin communities.
Israel has seen only 16 new cases during the last 24 hours and with 14,486 recovered which is allowing the easing of restrictions and the opening of most of the economy, including restaurants, bars, and other entertainment and sports outlets. The country is experiencing the ‘new normal’ and most people on the streets and in public do not even wear masks anymore, which is quite concerning for fear of a second wave. DSPR Nazareth continues with its Acre Women’s program and plans to have a virtual inter-group meeting for students from different Jewish and Arab schools in the next couple of weeks. Likewise, the youth leadership program which continued online during the lockdown would see small groups meeting face to face with safety precautions ensured when schools open and become functional which is expected within the next two weeks.
Lebanon has 1,140 total cases with 26 deaths and 21 new cases in the last 24 hours. The financial meltdown currently experienced in Lebanon is further complicating the effects of the pandemic on the poorest sectors of the population. Officials are warning of a major food crisis among the newly unemployed, chronically impoverished and those living in underprivileged conditions. DSPR Lebanon has been feeling the effects of the financial situation as the fall of the Lebanese Pound has put pressure on the employees of the different programs, the value of their salary has dropped by 100% while the purchasing power of the local currency has weakened with inflation skyrocketing. The Dbayeh Camp library and afternoon activities continue for a couple of days per week which ease the duress felt due to home confinement. Continuous assessment is being made as to the resumption of full operations whenever the state of lockdown is finished. The office is operational at least three days a week with the insistence of Sylvia to make the trip.
Jordan has 720 cases with 586 fully recovered and 9 deaths. No new cases were recorded within the last 24 hours. Government ministries and offices were opened on Wednesday, May 27, but schools and other educational institutions remain closed. Movement within each governorate such as Amman is allowed but not across the different governorates. DSPR Jordan went back to office on May 27. They are seeking permission from the Ministry of Social Development to enable the DSPR Staff and Field Workers to move freely across the governorates in order to resume their programs and activities. The DSPR office remains in contact with Center Supervisors in the four refugee camps and in the health clinic in order to assess the situation in preparation for resuming activities.
In the Central Office, full operations have resumed since May 11. We are enjoying the company of each other and pray that all our friends, partners and colleagues will soon go back to office work. The feeling of being face-to-face with colleagues certainly beats the zoom meetings and other online means.