Palestinian hospitals fill up as Israel loosens COVID-19 restrictions

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at 100% capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.

Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring COVID-19 infections, even as neighbouring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

“The percentage of hospital occupancy in some areas has reached more than 100%,” Shtayyeh said in Ramallah, one of the West Bank cities where his Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited self-rule.

A Palestinian medical worker receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital in the West bank city of Hebron, 04 March 2021. The Palestinian Authority received a limited number of vaccine doses from Israel in early February, which will be distributed to medical teams. EPA-EFE/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN

“The number of casualties is increasing and the number of deaths is increasing on a daily basis, forcing us to take strict, direct and unprecedented measures.”

The West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million Palestinians, have received around 34,700 vaccine doses to date. These came from small donations by Israel and Russia as well as 20,000 sent by the United Arab Emirates to Gaza.

Meanwhile in Israel, restaurants reopened on Sunday as the country kept up a fast pace of mass vaccinations.

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