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Meet Palestine’s mask-makers, Israel and Gaza ease lockdowns

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  • 57,838 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 50,657 recovered; 7,181 active cases; 472 deaths  
  • Of Palestinians who tested positive for COVID-19, 41,994 are in the West Bank; 4,440 in Gaza; and 11,404 in East Jerusalem
  • 301,389 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 261,128 recovered; 38,122 active cases; 2,139 deaths 

Mask-making in Palestine

Last Friday our correspondent Yumna Patel released the fifth an final installment in a video series on COVID-19 in Palestine, this time looking at innovation and entrepreneurship under occupation, and a pandemic.

The video starts in the al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank. There, she tours the working space of a women’s collective who combine traditional embroidery with sewing face masks. 

“We made the masks with different colors and simple designs so that people would come to love wearing the masks, because not everyone likes wearing face masks,” Dowlat Abu Shawish, the head of the mask program told Patel

“We created a number of designs. For example, we made the design of the Cedar Trees that are special to Ramallah, as well as the Star of Bethlehem, and we also have the Palestinian Kuffiyeh,” she added. 

Patel then headed back to Bethlehem where she followed Mohammad Abu Srour of Canaan Ecotourism as he slinked past Israel’s separation wall with his phone mounted to an extension pole. 

“One of our goals is to give alternative narratives, explanations, and experiences of Palestine, targeting the political situation and the culture and heritage in Palestine. We believe there is more to tell in Palestine through the young people,” he told Patel.

Israel begins to slowly end COVID-19 lockdown

Israel will begin easing its second full lockdown on Sunday with some businesses reopening and outdoor recreation permitted, as efforts to contain the coronavirus  outbreak reduced the number new cases to that of pre-closures levels. 

On Thursday there were just over 1,000 new cases, down from the 5,345 new cases on September 18, the day lockdown went into effect. 

Schools will remain largely closed, but children aged six and under are permitted to return to classes. Restaurants will be able to serve carryout orders, and national parks, beaches and nature reserves will be open to the public. Outdoor gatherings of up to 20 will be allowed, and up to 10 indoors. 

Israel will also lift one of its most stringent measures, banning people from traveling more than one kilometer from their home. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced lifting the lockdown on Thursday, calling it a “major success,” but warned measures would be pulled back in stages. 

“We need to do this so that we will not have an additional lockdown in two or three weeks. Therefore, the exit needs to be gradual, responsible, careful and controlled,” Netanyahu said. 

After six weeks, Gaza begins to scale back closures

Palestinians enjoy their time at a beach side cafe in Gaza City on October 12, 2020. Cafes and restaurants reopened this week under strict regulations after a month and a half of closure as the coronavirus spread in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA Images)

Gaza is partially still under curfew, heading into six weeks of closures and limited movement between governorates in nighttime hours, but some measures were scaled back this week. On Sunday restrictions were lifted on restaurants and cafes, allowing businesses to reopen but not at full capacity.

While most student will remain at home, around 35,000 12th-graders headed back class this week. Students are required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked before they enter school grounds. 

Planning the vaccine rollout 

A Palestinian woman waits with her infant at a UN clinic to take Polio vaccine and Rota virus vaccine in Deir al-Balah in the center of the Gaza Strip on September 10, 2020. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

We reported in this newsletter before that Palestine had been accepted into the a vaccine accelerator program by COVAX and Gavi, where vaccines will be distributed to vulnerable populations free of charge. This week the World Health Organization confirmed around 20% of Palestinians will get the vaccine under the Gavi program, with a focus on those over 65, people with preconditions, and health care workers.  

Gavi was able to solicit around $1 billion in donations to fund the global vaccine distribution project for poor countries.  

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