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Coronavirus Cases Spike in Israel and Palestinian Authority

Unlike initial outbreak, this time there is no coordination between the two governments

Mere months ago, the international community was praising the coordination between Israeli and Palestinian officials in combating the coronavirus outbreak.

Much has changed since then with the Palestinian Authority ending security cooperation with Israel over the new government’s plans to apply sovereignty over parts of the area referred to by Palestinians as the West Bank and by Israel as Judea and Samaria.

Now, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases as they also navigate the shifting political realities.

“It will be difficult for both sides to cooperate the way they did in the first wave. So it can really be a source of friction between the two parties. Especially for the Palestinians,” Dr. Lior Lehrs, policy fellow and director of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking at Mitvim, told The Media Line. “Now they are saying, ‘We are not going to cooperate with Israel. If they are doing the annexation, we are canceling Oslo.’ So it will be difficult for them to say suddenly, ‘We are cooperating on this issue,’ even though of course it is in the interest of both sides.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in remarks on Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, stated that “we must flatten the curve now” after hearing of harsh forecasts from different agencies.

A report released Saturday by the National Center for Information and Knowledge in the Battle Against Coronavirus said that Israel is experiencing a second wave and that hundreds could die of the disease this summer. The report said that average daily coronavirus infections reached 200 last week, up from an average of 16 daily cases a month earlier.

Israeli health officials on Sunday ordered the immediate reopening of coronavirus hospital wards and at Monday’s “Corona Cabinet” meeting, an outbreak scenario was unanimously approved to increase ventilator capacity to handle an additional 2,000 coronavirus patients and 2,000 other patients.

At the meeting of the “Corona Cabinet,” Netanyahu laid out four possible steps the government could take to curb the latest outbreak: dramatically increasing enforcement, using digital tools, implementing local shutdowns and restricting gatherings.

The cabinet also upped the fines for not wearing a mask in public spaces from 200 shekels (around $58) to 500 shekels (about $150).

On Sunday evening, 48 new cases were reported in Israel and on Monday morning another 56 infections were detected, bringing the total number of infections to 20,869 with 307 fatalities and 15,714 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.

COVID-19 cases are also continuing to rise in the Palestinian territories with clusters in Nablus and Hebron reported.

It will be difficult for both sides to cooperate the way they did in the first wave. So it can really be a source of friction between the two parties. Especially for the Palestinians

The PA Health Ministry said on Saturday that 108 new cases had been detected over the past 24 hours with 103 of the new infections in Hebron, prompting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to announce new restrictions, including a five-day lockdown in the Hebron District and a 48-hour curfew in the Nablus District.

Palestinian police were instructed to block the streets in the two hotspots and hand out fines to violators. The guidelines also called for nonessential shops to close.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announced on Sunday that the Palestinian Health Ministry registered 43 new cases of coronavirus in the West Bank. A total of 142 new cases were detected on Monday with most of them in the Hebron area, bringing the total number of infections in the West Bank and Gaza to 1,170.

The minister called on citizens to adhere to the instructions issued by the Health Ministry and to adhere to preventive and safety measures to protect themselves, their families and people, especially the obligation to wear face masks in public places.

The minister issued a decision to reopen all isolation and treatment centers in all governorates, asked all private hospitals to raise their preparedness in preparation for any emergency, and issued instructions to prevent visits to hospitals.

Meanwhile, PA Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Kamal Shakhra told The Media Line that coronavirus cases in the Palestinian territories are on the increase but that the PA is conducting widespread testing to contain the virus.

Mohammad Al-Kassim contributed to this report.