Second COVID-19 outbreak in Israel: Impact on Arab society

Second COVID-19 outbreak in Israel: Impact on Arab society

July 14, 2020

Don't take Corona lightly announcement
Photo credit courtesy of AJEEC-NISPED Safe Wedding Campaign.
Translation: "Don't underestimate the Coronavirus."  

After maintaining exceptionally low numbers of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in April and May 2020, a second and more intense wave of infections has been on the rise throughout Israel since June 2020. The second wave has more than doubled the total number of confirmed infections and tripled the number of cases in Arab society.

New Cases

  Jewish Arab

First Wave
April 1- May 31

16,717 1,064 (6%)

Second Wave
June - July 12

20,747 1,999 (9.6%)
Total Cases 37.464 3.063 (7.5%)

Initially, the virus reached Arab communities in Israel with a few weeks delay. Despite an early lack of official guidelines and information in Arabic, by the time infections spread to Arab society there was a high level of compliance with prevention measures and effective containment of outbreaks. Thus at the end of the first wave, Arab communities response to the crisis was largely seen as a success story and Arabs comprised only 6% of all Israel’s COVID-19 cases.

Still, since Arab society’s curve was a few weeks behind that of the Jewish majority, when Israel began officially relaxing prevention measures and enforcement of social distancing, Arab communities were still quite vulnerable. Though social distancing was still recommended in Arab society, the reopening of the rest of the country created a mixed message. Coinciding with Eid El Fitr, traditionally a social time of celebration in Arab society, and a reduction in awareness campaigns in Arab society, overall compliance in Arab society has weakened and the number of cases is rising. Among Negev Bedouin, where cases now account for 28% of all infections in Arab society, data shows that weddings have been a major cause of spread.

A chart provided by the Arab Emergency Situation Room (AESR) shows the two waves in Arabs society:

Media image

The Arab Emergency Situation Room, established at the end of March to coordinate the emergency response for Arab society, resumed its limited activity. The AESR is currently planning a wide-scope awareness-raising campaign for Arab society to highlight the need for continued compliance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines and instructions. It is currently conducting a public survey to gauge people’s attitude and perceptions (including for example questions about people’s awareness regarding the need to comply with instructions, reasons for not wearing masks, areas that are viewed as the most affected by Covid-19, personal estimation of economic impact of Covid-19, what in their view is the solution, etc.). These findings will inform the awareness-raising campaign which will aim to address specific areas with knowledge-gaps and/or low awareness within Arab society. 

In the Negev, where the current number of cases is now approximately 860—roughly 28% of all cases in Arab society, emergency response coordination continues as well. According to AJEEC-NISPED, the southern situation room has been turned into a Corona Task Force for the Bedouin community. This Task Force will support ongoing coordination between civil society and local authorities to provide protective materials, needs mapping, design solutions, and resource mobilization with the local community at the center of the approach.  

In response to rising infection rates, Israel's cabinet approved closing cultural events, event halls, bars, and public pools earlier in the month. Prayers and religious gatherings are now limited to 20 people; restaurants can operate at a minimum capacity of 20 people inside/in closed areas and 30 people outside/in open areas;and public transportation vehicles are limited to 50% of their full capacity. On July 14, the National Security Council discussed imposing further closures and restrictions with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but no further steps were taken (Arabic).

A recent survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute analyzed public opinion relating to the coronavirus outbreak and the economic fallout from the pandemic following the rise in cases during the second wave. The tenth survey in a series found that both fear of infection and an economic crisis rose significantly. The increase in concern over infection rates was more pronounced in Jewish society while Arab concern remained high, but remained the same. 

IDI graph depicting Arab and Jewish concern over infection of Coronavirus 


The last month has seen a significant rise in unease over the economic well-being in the future, especially among Arab respondents 76% reporting concern over economic stability versus 58% of Jewish participants.   

IDI graph depicting Arab and Jewish concern over economic well-being


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