Doctors Warn Of Gaza Strip’s Collapse

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Above photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

First Coronavirus Cases Surface

Medical and human rights organizations call on Israel to lift its blockade of the Strip to boost supplies of medical equipment and protective gear.

Palestine – The announcement Sunday that the first two cases of the coronavirus had been diagnosed in the Gaza Strip transformed the situation there from a state of readiness for the prospect that the virus would surface in the densely populated enclave to a sense of major anxiety.

“We knew that it would reach here too, and that has made everyone tense,” a Gaza resident told Haaretz. Even though the two patients diagnosed in Gaza contracted the virus in Pakistan and have been in isolation since returning, Gazans remain on edge. “Maybe they had contact with an employee at the border crossing or with someone else who is not in quarantine,” another Gaza resident said. “The concern is that we will ultimately lose control, and everything will explode. That’s what’s making everyone anxious.”

The concern that Gazans have felt over the pandemic went up another notch Sunday with an announcement that 29 people who had contact with the two Gazans would also have to be quarantined. They include a Hamas commander in the general security service in Gaza, Tawfik Abu Na’im, and his deputy as well as a district governor.

In response to the threat, hospitals in the Strip have shut down all of their outpatient clinics.

Following the diagnosis of the first two patients, Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights organization urgently requested that the director general of the Israeli Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, provide assistance to medical authorities in Gaza, including medical equipment that it lacks due to its reliance on Israel. Although the enclave also shares a border with Egypt, Israel controls access to most of the Gaza border crossings.

“Dealing with the corona crisis in the Gaza Strip is dependent upon Israel’s control of the border crossings,” said Ghada Majadle, the director of the occupied territories department at Physicians for Human Rights. “In light of the ongoing siege, Israel is responsible by virtue of international law to provide the required means to the Health Ministry in Gaza.”

Officials said that the Strip has only 70 intensive care hospital beds and that its hospitals are not well-equipped with disinfectant or with masks or protective suits for medical personnel. The international cooperation director of Gaza’s Health Ministry, Dr. Abdul-Latif al-Hajj, also warned of shortages in respirators.