COVID-19 spikes in east Jerusalem due to ongoing Green Line crossings

Some 2,698 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed in the West Bank – a sharp rise in numbers compared to the first wave

Wadi al-Joz in east Jerusalem (photo credit: V_KATSON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Wadi al-Joz in east Jerusalem
 The increase of coronavirus casesin east Jerusalem is likely due to the continued movement of Palestinian workers across the Green Line into Israel, a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“Unlike the first wave, we are seeing a lot of sick [people in east Jerusalem] because of the coming and going of Palestinians into Jerusalem and going back to their homes” in the West Bank, said Col. Itai Levi, commander of Home Front Command’s Jerusalem and Center District. Home Front Command works closely with civilian emergency-response services.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 2,698 cases of coronavirus in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, including an increase of 255 new cases confirmed since Monday, according to Palestinian Authority government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim
The current wave of the novel coronavirus has spread across the West Bank, with large spikes in Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Nine Palestinians have died from COVID-19, including a 44-year-old Hebron resident on Tuesday. Five east Jerusalem residents have died.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Palestinians working in healthcare, agriculture and construction were barred from traveling through checkpoints. They were allowed entry into Israel only if they agreed to remain for several months.
As coronavirus restrictions eased due to a decrease in numbers of infected people, crossings were once again opened. But with numbers rising, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories last week said crossings would close, and workers in Israel would only be permitted to return on July 16.
“It is hard to check everyone at the checkpoints when there are thousands of people coming in every day,” said Levi, who is responsible for Jerusalem and 33 other municipalities, a total of some 2.6 million civilians.
“Wherever there are more gatherings, and whenever the recommendations of social distancing, wearing a mask and hygiene are not kept, we will see a rise in the number of cases,” he told the Post.
Israel has seen a sharp spike in confirmed cases over the past month, with 714 new cases diagnosed over the past 24 hours, including 46 in serious condition.
Unlike the first wave, which saw specific communities in the country seemingly hit harder than others, the second wave has seen cases across the entire country.
As such, Home Front Command and the IDF Operations Division have prepared plans for significant outbreaks in cities across the country and in Bedouin villages and towns that have had a spike in cases.
The IDF is continuing to run five coronavirus facilities – two for quarantining individuals and three others for coronavirus patients. There are three facilities under Levi’s command – two for quarantine and one for diagnosed patients.
Unlike during the first wave, municipalities will work alongside Home Front Command and will have a larger role in the fight against the virus, using a municipal control and regulation system starting in August, Levi told the Post.
The system developed by the Weizmann Institute will be able to differentiate between various neighborhoods, street by street, in different cities and identify clusters of the virus before a larger outbreak occurs.
With the system, every municipality will be able to know who has the virus, and they would then be able to determine whether someone would need to be quarantined in a state-run facility, be transported to a hospital or could self-quarantine at home.
“This is something that we learned from the first wave,” Levi said. “It’s important to say that the municipalities are ready for this. We have trained them for this – it doesn’t matter if its rockets or a pandemic – the municipalities can handle this.”
With numbers rising, it is clear that Israel will continue to contend with the virus for at least the next year, he said.
“It hasn’t ended and won’t end for the next while,” Levi said.