Palestinians line up for COVID-19 testing on July 20 at a mobile station run by Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross, in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

East Jerusalem Palestinians Blame Israel for COVID Surge (VIDEO REPORT)

Health officials warn residents to get tested, avoid social gatherings

Palestinians in east Jerusalem are alarmed by a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases as Israel and the Palestinian Authority battle to contain the “second wave” of infections, with few signs of success.

Fuad Abu Hamed, director of the Clalit Medical Center in the Beit Safafa neighborhood, told The Media Line that the sharp uptick in infections was a warning of worse to come.

“The coronavirus is aggressively spreading in Jerusalem compared to Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas. We are talking about more than 1,500 confirmed cases so far, and the numbers are climbing,” he said.

The coronavirus is aggressively spreading in Jerusalem compared to Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas. We are talking about more than 1,500 confirmed cases so far, and the numbers are climbing

Ali Jibrini, a doctor in the prosperous Beit Hanina neighborhood and a member of the Coronavirus Combat Unit in the Israeli Health Ministry, said people were ignoring guidance from official sources and health professionals, with the current surge caused by social events.

“Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a crisis,” he told The Media Line.

“We reached hundreds of confirmed cases per day in the last five days – according to the epidemiological map, it is all related to weddings and social events. If the weddings continue to be held in this manner, we will enter an even greater crisis because weddings are the main source of new infections,” Jibrini said.

He called the virus’s rapid spread “serious and disturbing” for Arab residents of the city, urging them to follow safety measures and refrain from attending social gatherings without adhering to the recommendations of the Health Ministry.

The approximately 350,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem live in densely populated neighborhoods that have emerged as a virus hotspot.

Palestinians accuse Israel of not doing enough to stop the spread of the pandemic in the city’s east. Some residents there say police shut down anti-coronavirus efforts by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Ra’aft Elyan, a Fatah leader in the Jerusalem suburb of Anata, told The Media Line that Arab residents of the city were paying a high price.

“When it comes to the coronavirus, politics plays a major role,” he noted.

When it comes to the coronavirus, politics plays a major role

“The complete lack of Palestinian control over our Palestinian borders brings us back to politics and the frightening spread of the virus in Israel,” Elyan continued. “The failure of the Netanyahu government to contain this virus has certainly affected the Palestinian people.”

Israeli officials deny that they treat Palestinians in east Jerusalem any differently, insisting that they treat all residents of the city the same.

Abu Hamed, whose son came down with the novel coronavirus this past spring, said some believe there is no epidemic at all.

“Some people deny the existence of the pandemic, claiming they don’t know anyone who died of it. I am trying to tell people that even if it is a conspiracy theory, what do you have to lose by taking preventive measures?” he said.

Munir al-Ghul, spokesman for the Corona Combat Unit in the city, is urging residents of east Jerusalem to get tested. Tests kits are available, and anyone with symptoms should get checked, he told The Media Line.

“We at the Coronavirus Combat Unit in Jerusalem say that tests are necessary and important in order to detect the virus and identify those infected and those who have come in contact with them,” he stated.

“Tests are always available. Therefore, we appeal to residents of east Jerusalem to get tested and to adhere to hygienic practices,” Ghul said.

Health workers warn that the number of confirmed cases will continue to rise unless people start taking precautions seriously.

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