Palestinian health minister warns of fourth Covid-19 wave in West Bank, Gaza
Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila has warned of a fourth wave of the coronavirus across the occupied Palestinian territories.
During a weekly cabinet meeting, the minister called for the public to follow Covid-19 safety measures to limit the spread of the virus.
"I invite you, time and time again, to respect social distancing and to wear face masks," he said, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Al-Kaila announced that 2,742 new infections and 17 deaths had been recorded across the Palestinian territories in the 24 hours prior to the meeting.
The minister stated 1,406 new cases and seven deaths were recorded in the West Bank over the same time period. Al-Kaila also said 1,336 new cases and 10 deaths were recorded in the Gaza Strip.
Data released by the Palestinian health ministry last week revealed that only 655,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 220,000 in the Gaza Strip have had at least one vaccine dose.
Palestinian authorities faced delays in being able to secure vaccines, in part due to Israeli policies.
However, they were recently able to secure 2.8 million vaccine doses through a combination of the COVAX programme and vaccine donations from China and the UAE, according to the World Health Organisation.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 358,887 Covid infections and 4,012 coronavirus-related deaths in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to a Reuters data tracker.
Reuters also said that 1,392,999 doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, this is only enough to have 14.9% of the country's population vaccinated.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has said 70 vaccination centres are operating in the West Bank.
In late August 2021, Shtayyeh also announced that state employers who remain unvaccinated would be placed on unpaid leave as he rejected the idea of personal choice in the matter "when you are hurting others".
A spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, Ashraf Al-Qidra, also stated that unvaccinated government employees would face legal measures.
This is not the first time Al-Kaila has warned of a fourth wave. In late July the minister also expressed her concerns, urging people eligible for the vaccine to take it due to the spread of the contagious Delta variant.