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Al-Haq Statement on the Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Declaration of a State of Emergency
10، Mar 2020

For Immediate Release

Al-Haq is closely following the developments of the health emergency across the occupied Palestinian territory. According to statements of the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), a number of Palestinians have been infected with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), while others have been placed in official or home quarantine. Consequently, actions have been taken by the Palestinian executive authority, which declared a State of emergency throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, instituting measures that have affected many aspects of Palestinians’ lives. While commending the health measures implemented by the Palestinian Government, Al-Haq would like to highlight the following:

  1. All official and nonofficial national efforts must be concerted to tackle the spread of COVID-19. All resources of the Government, the private sector, and civil society must be harnessed to contribute to the national effort to ensure the safety of Palestinian citizens. Within the limits of available resources, the best services must be provided to infected or quarantined persons, ensuring their right to the highest attainable standard of health.
  2. The Government must adopt a human rights-based approach when dealing with patients held in official and unofficial quarantine and to persons under examination. The Government must ensure the safety of quarantine zones, including the right of Palestinians to a clean and healthy environment, provide medical services to patients, and uphold human dignity. In particular, the Government must take into consideration the special needs of older persons and women.
  3. To protect against all eventualities, it is paramount to draw on the experience of the past few days in light of the accelerating spread of COVID-19 internationally. Across Palestinian Governorates, preparations will be made in coordination with all Government bodies and private institutions to provide operational quarantine zones and receive citizens of different ages and groups. Maintaining a safe and healthy infrastructure and environment, these facilities must ensure a more efficient tackling of the health emergency, contribute to the recovery of patients, and protect health workers.
  4. The MoH must establish a medical team from across Palestinian Governorates. As soon as practicable, in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the medical team should receive training on how to deal with infected and suspected cases of COVID-19. Ensuring internationally recognised quality standards, protective gear that is specifically designed for medical staff must be provided. Counselling and medical staff should be made available to Palestinian citizens in home quarantine.
  5. Coordination is needed between the Government, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), and private media outlets to ensure adequate media coverage of the health emergency. It is pertinent that a transparent approach is adopted to ensure access to accurate and credible data and information on the emergency situation, particularly the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the number of confirmed cases. In addition, the media plays an important role at this time, and must seek to put an end to rumours and ensure the public’s awareness of the health situation. The media must also contribute to raising public awareness on the need to show respect for and prevent the ill-treatment of foreigners working in Palestine, which would give rise to legal responsibility.
  6. All Government bodies must comply with the law in line with the stated goals of the State of emergency. All actions taken must be strictly proportionate to the imminent threat and desired goal. Government bodies may not take actions and measures, which are not closely linked to reducing the risk of the spread of infection, for which the State of emergency was declared. In accordance with relevant legal standards, restrictions may only be placed on rights and freedoms to the extent necessary to eliminate risks of further spread.
  7. The Government must issue a circular on the State of emergency to all official authorities, particularly law enforcement agencies, spelling out and ensuring full compliance with the conditions of the State of emergency. The Government must review all the actions taken by official authorities and ensure they are aligned with the declared State of emergency and respective conditions. 
  8. Al-Haq commends the decision of the Prime Minister to uphold the right to privacy of infected patients, preventing the publication or circulation of the names of confirmed cases or persons in quarantine for suspected infection. Al-Haq calls on the Government to establish a special national register of infected cases and provide relevant official indicators.
  9. Al-Haq calls on the Government to uphold the principle of equality in civil service by striking a balance between gender roles. Due to the disruption of schools, women must not be viewed as solely responsible for childcare. A gendered approach is necessary to ensure that men also play a social role in caring for their children. Measures must be taken to promote equality in this regard.

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