Jun 29, 2022
JERUSALEM WEATHER
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Although the Arab sector constitutes a fifth of the general population, their share in COVID-19 infection in recent days has reached almost half of the total, according to representatives of the Corona Commission who appeared before the Knesset’s Committee on COVID-19. 

Committee’s chairman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) called on the leaders of the Arab public to encourage observance of the guidelines, and asked the Health Ministry to concentrate its efforts on increasing the scope of tests, strengthening cooperation with Arab authorities and encouraging them to observe protective guidelines and undergo vaccination when it becomes available very soon. 

MK Mtanes Shehadeh, the leader of the Arab Balad party in the Joint List, initiated the discussion.  “The data coming from the Arab sector is disturbing and worrisome. There are 1,000 new infections a day, and this constitutes a significant jump in the rate of infection compared to that during the first closure in the spring. The government continues with one ‘solution’ – lockdowns, even though this step has already been proven to be a failure, instead of sending those who are infected to hostels for isolation. In addition, the budgets available to the Arab municipalities and local authorities to combat the spread of Coronavirus is totally inadequate, as is state compensation to business owners.”  .

Ayman Saif, who heads the Arab section in the Health Ministry, commented that the reasons for the increase were varied – infection at home where large families live, attendance at large weddings and funerals, flights to “red countries” like Turkey, entry into the Palestinian Authority, and especially non-compliance with ministry guidelines including the wearing of masks and keeping one’s distance

Saif said that 63,000 Coronavirus tests were conducted last week in the Arab sector (14% of all tests) compared to just 26,000 tests in the sector about two months ago. The average verified number currently stands at 3.5% per 10,000 people in the general sector, and 9.1% in the Arab community. 

“As of today, more than 80 Arab authorities have been allocated NIS 22 million for fighting the pandemic,” declared Saif.  “Only with leadership and cooperation can success be achieved. I struggle every day to increase the scope of testing.” 

On Tuesday, the number of new COVID-19 cases topped 2,000 per day, raising the specter of a total lockdown in the near future despite the plan to start vaccinating all Israelis starting next week. 

According to Prof. Bishara Bisharat, chairman of the Association for the Advancement of the Health of the Arab Population, government policy is not appropriate for the Arab sector, such as the exercise of municipal supervision for prevention of mass weddings. 

Public Health expert Prof. Hagai Levine urged the government to prepare immediately for explaining to the Arab community the importance of all ages getting vaccinated against COVID-19.