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PCHR Calls on Authorities to Tighten their Procedures to Ensure that Citizens do not Gather in Public Places in the Gaza Strip

Ref: 29/2020

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is closely monitoring the preventive measures taken by the Gaza Strip authorities to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), especially those related to citizens’ gathering in public places. PCHR believes that these measures will remain inadequate if they were not strictly implemented by the government or without the full commitment of Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip to the instructions issued by competent authorities banning gatherings in public areas in order to preserve their health and the safety of society.

The issue of non-compliance with preventive measures and lack of adherence to the instructions issued by the competent authorities in the Gaza Strip was confirmed via a number of evidences documented by PCHR’s fieldworkers. Of these evidences was the gathering of a big number of UNRWA employees in front of the banks on 25 March 2020, to receive their salaries and sort out their financial situation, including submitting requests for ATM cards, as the banks did not take into account organizing the number of beneficiaries and scheduling their visits to its branches so that the number within the branch does not exceed 10 in addition to activating pre-reservation services through electronic applications for banks, which had been approved by the Palestinian Monetary Authority on 18 March 2020. On 26 March 2020, 2 journalists working at a news agency conducted a video interview from inside the field hospital in Rafah with two people who were diagnosed with the coronavirus and with the medical crews working in the quarantine center. A decision was made to admit the 2 journalists into mandatory self-isolation; thus, it is imperative to enhance the preventive measures put in place and to announce the investigation results in this incident. Public gatherings also continued in popular markets.

It is the responsibility of the Gaza Strip authorities to implement the preventive and cautionary measures and guidelines  it has decided, as well as those issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) that advise against gatherings and encourages home-stay unless absolutely necessary. Therefore, the Gaza Strip authorities should apply these measures and impose strict restrictions to ensure no civilian gatherings occur at Bank branches, Post Mail Offices and ATMs, especially that public and private sector salaries are expected in the beginning of April 2020 as well as the Qatar Aid Grant which has approximately 120,000 families in beneficiaries which will be disbursed via Post Mail Office across the Gaza Strip as per the statement of the Undersecretary of the Ministry for Social Development on Saturday, 28 March 2020; and the expected resumption of work at the clearinghouse to deal with due checks (collect and extend) from 02 – 09 April 2020 as per the Palestinian Monetary Authority’s (PMA) announcement on 26 March 2020.

PCHR appreciates the preventive measures adopted by the Gaza Strip authorities, and looks forward to their strict application in fear of a coronavirus spread, and calls upon:

  • The Gaza Strip authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure no public gatherings take place, including in markets, bank branches, ATMs and Mail Post Offices in the Gaza Strip.
  • The Gaza Strip authorities to strengthen its procedures to ban citizens, including journalists, from accessing quarantine centers in the Gaza Strip.
  • PMA to take the necessary preventive and precautionary measures to ensure no-public gatherings occur at and near banks, and to increase its monitoring on banks to ensure their abidance by the regulations on client reception;
  • Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to understand and abide by the preventive measures imposed by the Palestinian government and are required under the current circumstances to battle the spread of diseases and pandemics.