John Hopkins removes Palestine from coronavirus map tracker, eliciting fury

John Hopkins removes Palestine from coronavirus map tracker, eliciting fury
An important resource in tracking global coronavirus trends has come under fire by rights groups after it removed Palestine from the dashboard list, merging virus numbers with Israel.
3 min read
28 March, 2020
'Palestine' was eventually replaced with 'West Bank and Gaza' [John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre screengrab]
The John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, which been used as an important source for tracking the novel coronavirus outbreak across the world, is under fire for removing Palestine from its dashboard.

The world map, updated in real time, is published by John Hopkins University's Centre for Systems and Engineering.

However, the creator is being criticised for erasing Palestine from the board. Initially the dashboard listed Palestine and Israel separately.

Human rights experts quickly noticed that it removed Palestine and merged data about Covid-19 cases in the West Bank and the Gaza strip with numbers from Israel.

This meant that those living in Palestine couldn't track coronavirus cases in the occupied territories.

John Hopkins has since added a section titled "West Bank and Gaza", but people online don't think it is enough.

The change was first spotted by Dr Ritya Giacaman, a teacher at Birzeit University and Rania Muhareb, a legal advocate at the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq.

The pair penned a letter published by the medical journal The Lancet, pointing out the dashboard was "initially listing data recorded by the Palestinian health ministry in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under its entry for Palestine".

Israel numbers were listed separately.

However, on March 10, John Hopkins "replaced the entry for Palestine with oPt" – occupied Palestinian territories.

A day later, they said, "the oPt entry was removed and its figures merged with the entry for Israel".

John Hopkins updated the dashboard on March 26 with a separate section called "West Bank and Gaza".

Professor Lauren Gardner, the creator of the map did not respond to The New Arab’s request for comment.

There are 97 confirmed cases of coronavirus in West Bank and Gaza and one woman has died in the West Bank due to complications from the illness; Israel has reported over 3,000 cases and 12 deaths.

Israel flouting social distancing recommendations

Israeli forces are still carrying out operations in the East Jerusalem of neighbourhood of Issawiya despite restrictions imposed by the Israeli government to combat coronavirus.

Read More: Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns across the Middle East

Palestinian residents of Issawiya told Haaretz that arrests were being carried out with no protective gear and that security forces were not abiding by social distancing orders.

Israel's government approved a series of measures on Friday last week to reduce the movement of citizens and combat the outbreak of the virus.

As it stands, Israelis are only able to leave the house to go to work, to buy food and medicine, receive medical care, donate blood, protest, and attend court hearings and religious ceremonies.

Despite the restrictions, violent clashes erupted in East Jerusalem's Issawiya neighbourhood on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

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