Written by Nader Abu Amsha, Director
The East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program & Beit Sahour YMCA
Let me tell you that the good news from our side is no staff, family member or beneficiary is infected but let me share the following:
As you most probably know that Corona Virus reached Palestine and first discovered, on Wednesday, March 4, in the Bethlehem District and more specifically in the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, my town.
It came with group of visitors who were discovered to be infected after they returned to Greece. Some of the hotel staff and owners got the virus and spread it within their first circle. Three days later some cases were discovered in the Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem, and it impacted some of the staff and owners of the hotel.
On March 9, another case discovered positive in a village near Tulkarem in the north of the West Bank. All infected cases declared are 39 (with only 2 outside of Bethlehem), but there is an uncountable number are in quarantine or in a self-quarantine. People panicked in the first 2 to three days, and the Palestinian Authority declared a State of Emergency for 30 days, all educational centers, kinder gardens, schools universities and vocational training centers have been closed. People in the Bethlehem area were asked to stay in their homes, the Israeli Minister of Defense ordered closing all entrances to Bethlehem, the bridge to Jordan is closed, and movement in general is restricted. Since then, movement is more restricted and more families are losing income. The YMCA launched a campaign within Palestine to cover some medical, food and nonfood needed items.
Due to the fact that the incubation period for the virus symptoms to be visible is 2 weeks, it’s expected to that more cases will be discovered positive to the virus and to spread widely. So far there are long waiting lists to be checked but the ability of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to test people is humble. Emergency teams have been formed. Part of this is the psycho social team which we are part of.
The General Secretary of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the Directors of the Programs and Branches are in continuous online communication. we decided on a one month closure to the Vocational Training Center in Jericho, the three community and sports centers and the guest house in Beit Sahour. And as one of our staff in Jerusalem is a wife of a driver who was driving the group of Greek visitors, and she came to office daily before this was discovered, we asked her and all the staff of the Rehabilitation Program in the Jerusalem Team, who are in personal contact with our colleague to check themselves and to set in self-quarantine.
All staff of the Beit Sahour Center and Bethlehem team are asked to work from home. Few things could be done by some of us, like field teams and the support staff, but many things need to be done by those who work in projects and management. The work of the rehabilitation program continues but with limited visits to homes, but it’s frozen for the Bethlehem and Jerusalem field teams. As schools and kindergartens in all of Palestine are closed, female staff who have children under 12 years old given the option to stay with their kids at home, if nobody is taking care of them.
We are used to different emergencies, but this is something new, daily we are learning new things, and trying to be balance between being cautious and effective, especially that all of us have concerns at different levels such as work, family and community.
We Shall Overcome, hopefully soon! Warm regards and best wishes.