MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Israel and occupied territories is ready to provide all the necessary assistance to detention facilities in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic, Anastasiya Isyuk, the mission’s head of communications revealed.
Countries across the world are now taking measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading through the prison population, fearing that the confined communities could turn into major hotbeds of infection. In mid-March, Israel joined several other countries in suspending family and lawyer visits for inmates for one month.
"The ICRC is in close contact with the detaining authorities in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Infectious diseases pose a huge challenge to detaining authorities", Isyuk said, noting that they still had to provide care to the detainees despite potential difficulties.
The Red Cross is ready to provide support to the detaining authorities if necessary, the spokeswoman said.
"We are in discussions with the detention authorities about ensuring that alternative family contact mechanisms are in place and that updated and accurate information is publicly available", the ICRC representative added.
ICRC delegates, Isyuk went on, have been exempted from the ban, so the organization members will continue visiting detention facilities in Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza. In total, the Red Cross maintains contact with prison authorities in over 80 countries, she added.
The ICRC is making efforts to raise awareness among the most vulnerable residents in Gaza amid the coronavirus pandemic and help local health authorities to avert the outbreak in the 1.8-million-strong population, Isyuk added
"Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world. In disease outbreaks, facts, not fear, help people protect themselves and their loved ones. The Red Cross/Red Crescent family, local health authorities, the WHO [World Health Organisation] and community leaders are educating the public about the virus, sharing prevention information and helping to prevent misinformation and reduce rumors", Isyuk said.
She noted that the committee was focused on particularly vulnerable groups, such the elderly, people with chronic diseases and disabled people, who "often have unequal access to information on outbreaks and the availability of services" and may find it difficult to practice social distancing while being reliant on others in performing daily tasks.
In particular, she mentioned the support for Gaza’s Artificial Limb and Polio Center (ALPC), where the Red Cross helps to implement post-surgical physiotherapy projects for injured Palestinians.
"To help prevent the spread of the virus, the ALPC has reduced the number of patients attending on a daily basis. Measures it has taken include reducing daily physiotherapy rehabilitation and suspending the manufacturing of new protheses, although the follow-up of ongoing cases will continue. The centre will continue the urgent maintenance of the protheses and orthoses for children. Access to information is crucial at this stage, the ICRC has distributed awareness posters to ensure they are hanged everywhere inside the building as part of preventive measures", she said.
In addition, the Red Cross has donated 500 mattresses and 1,000 blankets at the authorities’ request to help accommodate people under a COVID-19 quarantine. The organization has also donated 43 infrared thermometers, according to Isyuk.
As of Thursday, Israel has confirmed over 6,200 coronavirus cases, including 33 deaths. Palestine, in turn, has updated its case count to 155, including one fatality.