Palestinians close West Bank schools as coronavirus variants increase | News on the coronavirus pandemic

The Palestinian Authority’s health ministry said intensive care units for COVID-19 patients had reached 95 percent occupancy in the West Bank.

Schools in the occupied West Bank will close for 12 days in an attempt to stop a surge in variant coronavirus infections, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Saturday.

High schools will be exempt from the shutdown which begins on Sunday, Shtayyeh said in a televised speech, adding that the new restrictions were prompted by a growing number of cases of coronavirus variants first discovered in the UK and South Africa. South.

Intensive care units for COVID-19 patients have reached 95% occupancy in the West Bank and schools have been identified as the main cause of the rapid spread of infections, the health ministry said.

On Thursday, he reported that a randomized sample of coronavirus patients showed more than three-quarters were infected with the UK variant.

The World Bank said in a report this week that the occupied Palestinian territories have one of the lowest testing rates in the Middle East and North Africa and that the positivity rate in the West Bank is over 21% and in Gaza by 29%, indicating an uncontrolled spread of the pandemic.

The West Bank, home to 3.1 million Palestinians, has reported a total of 118,519 coronavirus cases and 1,406 deaths.

Gaza, where coronavirus restrictions have been gradually lifted since January, has reported 55,091 cases and 549 deaths among its population of two million.

With around 32,000 doses of the vaccine on hand to date, the Palestinians this month launched limited vaccination programs in the West Bank and Gaza, starting with health workers.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) expects to receive a first shipment of COVAX within weeks and says it also has supply deals with Russia and drug maker AstraZeneca, though doses have been slow to come in. come. Shtayyeh said he expected shipments in March.

Israel has so far given 2,000 doses to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians accusing Israel of ignoring its duties as the occupying power by not including the Palestinians in its vaccination program. Human rights groups and UN officials have also said Israel is responsible for the well-being of the Palestinians.

Israel says that under the interim peace accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the vaccination campaign in the West Bank and Gaza.

Amid vaccine shortage in Palestinian territories, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversial plan to ship surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of allied countries was temporarily frozen on Thursday.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called Netanyahu’s plan “political blackmail and an immoral act”, accusing Israel of “exploiting the humanitarian needs of these countries”.

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