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Coronavirus cases surge in occupied West Bank | Palestine News



Hebron, Occupied West Bank – The number of COVID-19 cases in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza reached 13,457 on Friday as a surge in infections in the second half of July saw the total number of reported cases double.

According to the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, the rate at which the disease is transmitted in the occupied West Bank has reached 1.58, meaning that every two infected individuals are likely to spread the virus to three more.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited control over some areas of the occupied West Bank, has struggled to contain the spread of the virus.

When the PA eased a lockdown following street protests in late May, there were less than 130 confirmed coronavirus infections. It has since reimposed a partial lockdown in response to the increase in reported cases.

However, spotty adherence to social distancing guidelines remained widespread across the West Bank, while a lack of control over borders and the movement of people have elevated the problems faced by the Ramallah-based administration.

Hebron is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied West Bank [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

New epicentre

Of the 8,796 active cases, more than half of have been reported in Hebron governorate in the southern West Bank.

On a recent weekend in Hebron city, with a population of more than 750,000, the local authorities appeared ineffective or unwilling to enforce a routine lockdown. Vehicle traffic in and out of the city flowed unhindered, and many businesses were open.

“I decided to open my shop when I saw that by noon everybody was open,” Ahmad al-Qaisi, an upholstery retailer from Hebron told Al Jazeera.

In late June, as it became clear that Hebron was the epicentre of the outbreak, the health ministry directed more staff and supplies to the area. A new hospital in Dura, near Hebron city, was repurposed upon opening to exclusively treat COVID-19 patients.

“From the start, they brought the hardest cases here that need intensive care,” Dr Muhammad Ribie, the administrator of the hospital, told Al Jazeera. “Of course, it was a big challenge for us,” he said.

The hospital at Dura was first supplied with six ventilators, 10 intensive care unit beds, and 100 beds for minor cases, Ribie said. After a visit by the Palestinian health minister, Dr Mai Keleh, six more ventilators were sent along with 10 more ICU beds as cases in the region surged.

The Dura hospital was also equipped with an oxygen generator, but Ribie said an additional generator is still needed to meet the demand.

“The treatment of the majority of the corona patients is by oxygen,” Ribie said. “If the generator cannot produce enough, we switch to oxygen tubes and those run out fast and then we have to send them to Hebron to be refilled. This is not practical,” he added.

In early July, as the number of cases in the Hebron region was surging, the demand for test kits resulted in a shortage that led authorities to temporarily use serological testing instead. The health ministry replenished test kit supplies the next day, but public anger mounted.

A group of nurses prepare to leave the Dura Hospital after the end of their shift.

A group of nurses prepare to leave the Dura Hospital after the end of their shift [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

‘Community transmission’

A local health official who is privy to the COVID-19 situation in the West Bank told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity that the number of daily detected cases is worrying. During the last two weeks of July, newly detected cases averaged around 500 a day.

“This is a high figure when we think about the low number of tests performed,” he said. “We’ve been performing around 35,000 tests for every one million people, and this is not enough.”

“Israel ran far more tests … The UAE ran 490,000 for every one million people,” he said. “We are short of money.”

At the beginning of the health crisis, the PA struggled to limit the spread of the disease in the West Bank via workers who travel to and from Israel. There are 10 official crossings between the West Bank and Israel, and 300 more unofficial crossings, Mai Keleh said in a recent TV interview.

The PA does not have the resources to control labour traffic for all those points of entries. Also, many of the unofficial crossings are located in Area C of the West Bank where the PA has no control.

However, the situation has far worsened now. The majority of the recent transmissions in the West Bank are “community transmissions,” the Palestinian health minister said recently.

The health official told Al Jazeera that these account for “more than 61 percent of the cases”.

Economic impact

The economic fallout from coronavirus has been severe, with the ministry of economy estimating losses from the standstill at more than three billion dollars.

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayeh this week announced agreements with the Palestinian Monetary Authority on several measures to ease the economic strain.

Banks were ordered not to slap fees on returned checks. In addition, they were also instructed to not deduct loan payments owed by their clients when the PA transfers salaries to its employees.

According to data from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the value of returned checks in the West Bank has soared in recent months to $389m.

Ahmad Quaisi, the young upholstery merchant from Hebron, believed the policy has a downside because it has encouraged some to abuse it.

But for now, he said, “We’ve transitioned from accepting checks to cash; we sell on a cash basis, only.”

Before the pandemic, he imported as many as 10 containers a month of merchandise from China, Turkey and Europe. That has changed, he said, as fewer customers are buying from his shop.

“Importing has been scaled back. The purchasing power is gone. Now, I import two containers a month.”

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.


Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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