PRCS COVID-19 Response will focus on the training of staff and volunteers; disseminating key public health messages through activating volunteers at a community level applying alternative approaches in lockdown situation, the use of social media, and protecting the EMS staff and volunteers through the provision of PPEs as well as the preparedness of various PRCS hospitals to be used as quarantine or even treatment centers in an advanced or complicated scenario. Relief and PSS activities will address areas not reached by other partners and target the most vulnerable communities.
As any pandemic, COVID-19 operations shall begin and end in communities; who shall be engaged and trained and prepared to a quick and easy spreading virus. Hence, PRCS relies on its long-standing policy and strategy of Decentralization and Resilience of communities. The added value of having the largest spread in the oPT through volunteers, branches and sub-branches will support the response plan operations of COVID-19. PRCS mobilizes all of its assets and human resources to achieve its objectives and reach the last mile. On 31 December 2019, the Government of China reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei Province. A novel corona virus was identified and has been named COVID-19. On 30 January, World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. On March 11, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
As of 6th April, a total of 246 Palestinians have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 234 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem Palestinians), and 12 in the Gaza Strip. Only one person died from COVID-19 on 25 March in the West Bank until April 6th . The majority of people do not present critical symptoms and 23 people have recovered. While the current number of people detected in the oPt remains low, this may reflect the limited testing capacity. Contact tracing has been initiated for all confirmed cases. (Source: WHO)
Although the Palestinian Authority (PA) has taken strict measures early enough, and was able to some extent to contain the situation and prevent rapid spread of it in the oPT, stopping at around 100 cases; the real challenge started when the Palestinians workers in Israel started coming back to oPT after the spread of COVID-19 where the cases so far are more than 7000. The total number of workers amount to more than 45000 worker, and the PA is struggling to receive them, making tests for them and ensure the quarantine measures are taking place; especially as the cases among them have started to increase in tens. The PA fears a widespread of COVID-19 in the oPT that cannot be dealt with, given the Palestinian MoH incapability of dealing with hundreds of cases due to the lack of the needed capacities in the available hospital, that would lead to a collapse in the health system in Palestine.
The capacities of the MoH as indicated in their latest report for WB and GZ include: a total of 375 ICU beds, and 295 ventilators only. Therefore, the Government of Palestine is taking the strictest measures at the earliest stages possible.
In light of the above, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended the State of Emergency in Palestine for 30 days starting April 6th. This was accompanied by stricter measures on the various levels, such as movement hours, testing cases, etc.
The number of cases continues to grow, and the threat of further spread within the region and globally remains high. The COVID-19 outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive “infodemic” that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and evidence-based guidance when they need it. Understanding of this virus and the resulting outbreak is rapidly evolving. Information gaps have led to misconceptions, stigmatization, rumours and uncertainty that are currently partially filled by speculation in scientific and public communities, contradicting evidence-based health information and, in extreme cases, stopping people from protecting themselves and undermining the correct health seeking behaviours.
Occupied Palestinian territory
To ensure a rapid, efficient and coordinated response, the PRCS focuses on the following components:
1. Preparing and protecting EMS, hospital and primary health clinic staff.
2. Awareness and dissemination of key public health messages and psychosocial support.
3. Provision of 15000 food parcels to vulnerable families including labourers returning from Israel.
4. Ensure the wellbeing and coverage of basic needs of vulnerable families especially those with People with Disabilities between its members.
5. Provide PSS to families and awareness for violence prevention.
6. Provide NCD medicines for vulnerable chronic patients, unable to move because of the lockdown/curfew.
Palestine Red Crescent Society in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Netherlands Red Cross