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October 15, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8968

Palestinian Journalist: Unless Authorities Start Enforcing Covid-19 Restrictions, We Are Headed For Disaster

October 15, 2020
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 8968

In his September 19, 2020 column in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, journalist 'Abd Al-Nasser Al-Najjar complained about the cavalier attitude towards Covid-19 in the Palestinian territories, both on the part of the public, which he said is ignoring the authorities' Covid-19 orders, and on the part of the authorities, which are not enforcing these orders strictly enough or punishing offenders. He stated that the infection rate in the PA is very high, yet the Palestinians remain indifferent and seem to be counting on achieving herd immunity. Warning that the Palestinians are headed for disaster, he called on them to stop their negligence and start following the rules.

It should be noted that in June 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, 'Abd Al-Nasser published a similar article in which he claimed that Hebron was becoming the "Palestinian Wuhan" due to the PA's poor management of the crisis and the public's mass violation of the emergency restrictions. 


(Source: alhayat-j.com, July 7, 2020)

The following are excerpts from his recent column: [1]

"[At first,] we Palestinians launched full-force into the fight against the pandemic… and thought we were winning. But suddenly we became breathless, and could no longer compete or even keep up with the global pace [of fighting the disease]. In the first weeks [of the pandemic], when we were still talking about a handful of cases, we were fearful and cautious in everything we did. More than that, contracting [Covid-19] became a social stigma, like contracting scabies,  so much so that the funerals of the first victims left a special impression. The strict lockdown measures carried out in that initial phase were effective, even though they badly harmed the [already] weak [Palestinian] economy. For the sake of public health, the growth and prosperity of some [economic] sectors were sacrificed…

"When summer came, the catastrophe arrived, as the government faced pressures from every direction to fully open up the economy, renew all business [activity], [allow] the opening of banquet halls and bereavement [tents], and even bring back sports [matches]. [As a result] we soon found ourselves losing the war against the pandemic. The number [of cases] began rising, not by single-digit [numbers] but by two-digit [numbers], and not only in one governorate but in all the [PA] governorates…

"The government's intervention [measures] were hesitant. It announced precautions, chiefly  social distancing [measures], mask-wearing, the closure of venues, and restrictions on [the size of weddings and funerals. But most people ignored this, despite warnings that offenders would be prosecuted and punished. These punishments remained on paper only, except in rare cases, when [the PA carried them out] to save face. The government's directives looked like they came from another planet, and precautions were taken very rarely - so much so that in some governorates there is no sign of these precautions, despite the immense surge in the number of cases. Every week the government issued a press announcement stressing [the need for] precautions and warning against disaster, but nobody listened - and now we are marching, with strange indifference, towards herd immunity.

"One evening last week I visited Hebron, where the largest number of cases and deaths have been recorded, compared to other [PA] governorates. [I saw] wedding celebrations everywhere, and people crowding without restraint. When I asked about this, I was told… that things were out of control. On Friday morning, I was surprised to find that some mosques were holding services inside, not in the courtyard, in violation of the Endowments Ministry's directives. This proves that the government directives remain on paper, while the situation on the ground is completely different…  

"The official Palestinian data [on the number of cases and deaths] reflect the catastrophe clearly [enough, and] health experts stress that the real [figures] are much higher. This is due to the limited number of tests, and also to the fact that many young children contract the disease without developing symptoms, but they do infect others. [Now] Gaza has suddenly sunk into [the pit of] the pandemic as well. The [Hamas] authorities there kept talking our ears off for months, [boasting] that there weren't any cases [in Gaza], or only a handful of cases, and that quarantine measures were being enforced with absolute strictness.  This encouraged the Gazans to abandon all precautions, and now suddenly… dozens of people have contracted the disease, and nobody can control or limit [its spread]…

"The figures recorded yesterday in most countries of the world indicate that Palestine has the highest [rate of] infection [compared to the size of its population], even twice as high as the rate of infection in the countries listed. We are way over the red line, yet we continue to wander aimlessly. Catastrophe is looming, and if all of us - especially the governors and security apparatuses - do not strictly enforce the law, hold [offenders] accountable and implement the government's [directives] in full and without negligence, we will find ourselves running, out of ignorance and stupidity, towards [counting on] herd immunity. When that happens, we will drown and clutch at straws. But remember that the entire world, including those closest to us [i.e., the Arab countries], is turning its back to us."

 

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), September 19, 2020.

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