COVID-19: New Zealand, Palestinian authorities institute new lockdowns

A paramedic with Magen David Adom, Israel's National Emergency Organization, administers the Pfizer-Biotech coronavirus vaccine to a Palestinian woman at the Qalandiya Checkpoint on Tuesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Feb. 28 (UPI) — New Zealand and the Palestinian Authority both announced new lockdown policies Saturday as global COVID-19 cases continued a slow decline from January’s peak, and the number of deaths fell even further.

As of Saturday, 113 million cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported around the globe, according to the World Health Organization.

The United States still leads the world in the number of both cases and deaths, with 511,077 deaths and 28.5 million cases as of Saturday.

On Friday, the WHO reported 432,193 new cases worldwide — an increase of 2,671 cases, or 0.62%, over the day before. There were 10,162 deaths, a decrease of 446 — or 4.2% — over the day before.

The number of cases and deaths have each declined steadily since January, with case counts down 5% in the last two weeks and the number of deaths down 23% percent in the same time period, per the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced a new seven-day lockdown in Aukland on Saturday due to a new COVID-19 case with unknown origin.

According to Arden, the case was detected in Aukland earlier Saturday and appears unrelated to a small cluster of cases already in the south part of the city.

The person testing positive developed symptoms Tuesday and is the older sibling of a high school student who had returned three recent negative tests and is asymptomatic.

All family members are being tested and public health officials are conducting interviews to determine the origin of transmission.

The Palestinian Authority announced a new set of lockdown restrictions in the West Bank on Saturday amid a surge of coronavirus infections and as Palestinians wait for a vaccine rollout to begin.

The West Bank restrictions are set to last for 12 days. Universities will be closed, large gatherings will be banned, and there will be restrictions on nighttime travel and nonessential commerce.

The Palestinian minister of health announced Saturday that 910 new cases and five deaths had been recorded in the West Bank in the previous 24 hours, including one who died in the Gaza Strip and three who died in East Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control.

Of 206,440 confirmed cases among Palestinians in the past year, 24,500 died in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said.

Israel has outpaced the rest of the world in vaccinations, reporting that more than half its population of 9.2 million have received a first dose and more than a third have received two doses.

Human rights advocates, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention — under which occupying powers are obligated to safeguard the public health of people living under occupation — have argued that Israel should be vaccinating the Palestinian population along with its own citizens.

Israel, which opened a station in east Jerusalem this week to share vaccines with Palestinian workers, has provided the Palestinian Authority with 2,000 vaccine doses, and has promised 3,000 more.

The Palestinians have received more than 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, 2,000 transferred from the West Bank, and another shipment of 20,000 Russian doses is en route.

Palestinian officials also expect to receive hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses next month through the international COVAX vaccine-sharing program.

More than 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and 2 million live in Gaza.

According to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker, more than 234.1 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide — the equivalent of 3.1 doses for every 100 people.


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