Consequences of the lock down due to the pandemic in the West Bank

Asil Qraini is 23 years old. She grew up and lives in the city of Nablus, in the West Bank of Palestinian territory. The group of Pressenza, as part of a wider mission to the West Bank, met Asil while visiting the Al Najah University. Once again, Asil has agreed to get interviewed in order to inform us about how she and her close social environment has been experiencing the pandemic. She was interviewed by Christina

At what stage is the uplifting of the restrictions in the West Bank due to the Covid-19? How has your daily life, your studies, work, traveling, etc. been affected by these additional restrictions?

We had an increase of restrictions both from the Israelis and the PA due to the spread of the virus. The PA had us in complete lock down for almost 3 months, only bakeries and pharmacies remained open. The rules of curfews changed throughout those months. No travelling was allowed between the cities and even neighborhoods within the same city were cut off with heavy security and checkpoints. Those who didn’t abide by those restrictions were faced by fines and their cars were taken in. We didn’t have public transportation until very recently; private taxis were allowed to work but would only have 2 passengers maw, from the same family. The latter was one of our biggest challenges because my family and I live in a remote part of the city on the outskirts and don’t own a car.

I had been working as a freelancing translator and interpreter before the lockdown and I have been unemployed for months now. My family, like many others, is barely making it by. My sister and I are the only providers and even her, a software engineer, was affected. Her salary was cut in half but I still consider us on the lucky side for having somehow a stable source of income.

My daily life was majorly affected for I left home only for little walks around the house and rare grocery trips. I didn’t see any friends or family members for weeks….

According to WHO, there have been approx. 602 confirmed cases and 5 deaths in West Bank and Gaza Strip; every case is loss is important, nevertheless, in your opinion, what helped these areas avoid a massive amount of coronavirus cases?

Maybe yeah the lock down helped a bit but the way I see it is that it caused more harm than benefit.

Every person and every country around the world holds a different experience regarding the lock down and the threat of the Covid-19. Not everyone was that privileged though, to be able to enjoy the staying at home situation, ‘’pause’’ life or being in a safe environment etc. As far as you, how did people experience it in the West Bank? Are there any clear differences between the three areas of West Bank; area A, area B and area C, that each one has a different form of administration? Should we assume that each area was under different restrictions/policies or protection measures?

Almost all areas followed the same measurements, as far as I know of. But from the very beginning, villages and refugee camps were cut off of cities and neighborhoods within the same city were separated by various checkpoints. This whole situation was far from a “pause” for most Palestinians, including myself and I can say that things are not going back to normal maybe ever! Despite the fact that those restrictions were all lifted, people’s spirits are broken, there’s tension and anxiousness and fear filling the air. Unemployment rates flew up the sky and uncertainty is looming over us all.

Has Covid-19 caused any change of Israel’s policies to Palestine? Do you think Covid-19, has been used as an additional threat for Palestinian people?

I think it was used as an excuse to pose more restrictions on movement, industries, farming and pretty much all aspects of life. Not to forget how Israel destroyed -in the very beginning- an emergency field hospital that was set up to fight off COVId-19.

Are there any remarkable Palestinian and/or Israeli movements/initiatives that tried to stay active and respond to the needs of the Covid-19? How does the youth try to overcome the current challenges?

A Palestinian brand named BabyFist was raising money and making masks and donating them to NGOs in Gaza. Another Palestinian designer, Yazan Zeit, has also been donating fabric masks produced in his atelier.

Are there any positive outcomes from this whole situation?

Honestly, being a realistic and not a pessimist, I can’t think of ANY positive outcomes…