Coronavirus ‘out of control’ in Gaza: hospital official


The mounting number of coronavirus infections in densely-populated Gaza is spinning out of control, Palestinian health officials warned Monday.

“The virus is spreading and the situation is getting out of control,” Dr. Ahmad al-Jadba, an official at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told AFP.

The health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory of two million inhabitants declared a record 24-hour high of 890 new cases between Friday and Saturday.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic stood Monday at 15,450, including 70 deaths.

“The number of intensive care beds is very limited, as are medicines,” said Mahmud Al-Khazindar, director of a private hospital in Gaza.

“If the number of cases increases, a choice will have to be made between the care of the elderly, the young and patients with another disease,” he warned.

Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said the health ministry “expects the worst if the epidemiological situation remains the same”.

Naim, a former health minister, cited “a health system at the end of its rope”, “severe drug shortages” and “extreme overcrowding”.

Even before the first two confirmed Gaza cases announced on March 22 United Nations agencies working in the Palestinian territories warned of the potentially devastating effects of an outbreak.

Much of Gaza’s population lives in overcrowded refugee camps, with large families common and the narrow coastal strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

The coastal strip has only two entry and exit points, the Erez crossing to Israel and the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

As the virus began to spread globally, both crossings were almost completely closed, and Hamas imposed strict quarantine measures for the small numbers of people allowed in and out.

It has no air or sea ports.

The flow of people through Erez has long been tightly controlled by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008 and says its crippling blockade is necessary to contain the hostile Islamist group.

Numbers started climbing in August and Hamas imposed nightly curfews and a mandatory 5 pm closing time for businesses.

The separate territory of the West Bank, governed by president Mahmud Abbas’s government but occupied by Israel, announced Monday a fresh 14-day curfew from the end of the week.

Citing a “worrying spread” in Covid-19, prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said starting Friday only bakeries, pharmacies and supermarkets will be open at the weekend and there would be a nighttime curfew.

According to Monday data, the West Bank, with a population of 2.8 million, has so far confirmed more than 57,740 cases of infection, including more than 570 deaths.

France 24

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