AMMAN: The Israeli Ministry of Health has issued a report about the number and location of Palestinians infected with the coronavirus in East Jerusalem.
It follows concerted international pressure as well as repeated demands by Arab members of the Knesset.
The first list of infections in East Jerusalem neighborhoods was published by the Jerusalem municipality on April 26, showing 143 infections.
Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, told Arab News that for the past two weeks he had been in constant communication with the Israeli authorities to find out the status of people in East Jerusalem.
“I have been in constant touch with the Ministry of Health demanding to know the situation in East Jerusalem. Initially they said that there were no infections and that we were exaggerating the situation. Eventually they published the list; that is good even though it was late.”
Ali Ghaith, a Jerusalem-based human rights activist, told Arab News that a UN meeting in New York for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people asked him to speak about the situation in Jerusalem.
“I spoke by video conference on April 21 to the meeting and a number of UN ambassadors were in attendance and they promised to pursue this issue with the Israeli government.”
Five days later the list was published showing different neighborhoods and the size of infection in each of the Palestinian neighbors in Jerusalem.
Dr. Walid Nammari, head of the August Victoria Hospital and the secretary-general of the Network of Jerusalem Hospitals, told Arab News that publication of the list would help the medical community.
“It helps us to know with detection and identification and will guide us to the areas where we need to do more testing and screening.”
Fadi Hidmi, the minister in the Palestinian government in charge of Jerusalem Affairs, told Arab News that the delay in announcing the statistics on infections in East Jerusalem reflected the Israeli attitude. “This shows clearly that the Israeli claim that Jerusalem is united to be a false claim.”
Hidmi praised the EU as well as other countries and funders who have come through with pledges to support the people of Jerusalem.
“The EU and member states, as well as others, have been strong supporters of our people during this emergency. I visited along with the EU representative in Jerusalem the villages of Bidu and Hizma, where we distributed medical and foods supplies to people there,” Hidmi said.
Dr. Jamil Kusa, head of St. Joseph’s hospital in East Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Israeli government donated four ventilators to the hospitals dealing with corona.
“We have now a few more ventilators but we are worried about the future, especially that the next wave of this disease might come back in the winter and will be much more deadly,” he said.
The six hospitals that are based in East Jerusalem have estimated that they need $7 million to deal with the coronavirus. Dr. Nammari told Arab News that more than half of the required funds have been pledged. “Between cash and in-kind support, we have received four out of the seven million dollars we estimate we need in order to be able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Nammari said that the number of infected persons in Jerusalem was probably much higher than what was declared due to the way the Israelis count. “They only count East Jerusalemites who have Israeli IDs and who were tested in Jerusalem. We have a number of Palestinians who have been infected but either don’t have the Israeli IDs or are spouses to Jerusalemites with Israeli IDs.”
While it took Israel three days to return test results, people living near Ramallah could be tested and receive their results from the Palestinian ministry within 24 hours, Nammari said.