The Palestinian Authority expects to receive about four million doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine, said the PA's commissioner of public health in a radio interview on Saturday evening, just hours after the Palestinian Health Ministry reported it had registered the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in a single day over the last 24 hours.
The announcement, made by Dr. Osama Anjar in an interview for the Voice of Palestine radio station, came amid a week-long lockdown imposed by the PA over the weekend to curb the rate of infections, which has sparked criticism and set off demonstrations across the West Bank.
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The rising infection rate is evident in the number of patients in serious condition and those connected to ventilators. Dr. Anjar said that the vaccines will arrive towards the end of December or in early January, and that the PA is currently in the midst of discussions with the aim of procuring additional vaccines from other sources.
Palestinian Health Minister Dr. Mai Al-Kila said Saturday morning, in conversation with journalists in Ramallah, that 150,000 vaccines are expected to arrive in the first shipment, and that priority will be given to medical and security personnel, as well as those working in media outside of their offices or homes.
Ahead of and until the arrival of the vaccines, the Palestinian Health Ministry transferred all coronavirus patients in the West Bank to a hospital in Nablus.
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The imposition of a full lockdown over the weekend has set off a wave of demonstrations across the West Bank since Thursday, including clashes between Palestinian security forces and protesters, a somewhat unusual occurrence.
On Friday, at a demonstration in Hebron, city residents fired guns into the air and security personnel used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, which included members of the al-Jabari family, one of the city's most powerful and largest.
Additional clashes also broke out during demonstrations in the Beit Omer area near Hebron, and in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
A senior security official told Haaretz that some of the families in the West Bank are trying to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to mount a challenge to security forces, but that security forces would not allow this to pass.
Many of the voices critical of the lockdown belong to Palestinian merchants who fear it will severely affect their livelihoods and view it as a punishment.
Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh said in response that public health is more important than "any fear of economic damage," and emphasized that the lockdown policy is " a means of protection rather than punishment," characterizing it "as a necessary step to curb the spread of the virus."