Officials warn of weak health system in Gaza to combat coronavirus

The health system’s weakness in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is a big hazard to combat the spread of the coronavirus, officials warned this week.

On Monday, the Hamas-run ministry of health recorded the first four cases of people not coming from abroad either from Egypt or through Israel.

The Gaza Strip is home to two million Palestinians who live under high poverty and unemployment rates since the start of the Israeli blockade in 2007.

Kamal al-Shakhra, in charge of coronavirus file in the Palestinian Health Ministry, told reporters that the situation of the pandemic in the Gaza Strip “is so dangerous.”

Al-Shakhra said there is fear that there are more cases in the besieged coastal enclave which have not been discovered yet.

In spite of the political and geographical division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, al-Shakhra said that the Health Ministry in Ramallah “is on a permanent contact with the medical teams in Gaza.”

“We are in contact with the medical teams to work on conducting more examinations and studying the epidemiological map in the Gaza Strip,” al-Shakhra said, adding that the Health Ministry in Ramallah “is preparing to send urgent medical supplies to Gaza within the coming hours.”

On Monday, the Health Ministry in Gaza said that since the outbreak of the disease on March 5, it recorded 138 cases in Gaza, including three deaths, 72 recovered cases and 63 active cases.

Since the outbreak of the disease in Palestine, Hamas authorities hold all those who return from abroad, either through Rafah crossing point with Egypt or Erez crossing point with Israel, under quarantine and isolation centers far from the densely populated areas.

However, on Monday, the health ministry said it recorded four COVID-19 cases in a refugee camp in central Gaza Strip and had immediately imposed a full lockdown on the entire enclave’s district for five days.

The fear of a rapid spread of the virus in Gaza increased when the health ministry said it recorded nine COVID-19 cases among the medical teams who work at hospitals and clinics all over the Gaza Strip.

Yahya A’abed, member of the pandemic committee in Gaza, told Xinhua that the pandemic map of coronavirus in Gaza “is very diverse and is currently distributed in various governorates, with the exception of Rafah and Khan Younis districts in southern Gaza Strip.”

“We are currently conducting hundreds of tests, including medical teams, hospital workers, and admitted patients,” said A’abed, warning that the available swabs to conduct tests are currently threatening to run out within one month.

He clarified that all government hospitals in the Gaza Strip have only 10 new ventilators, stressing that the hospitals need more ventilators “as urgent as possible.”

“The Gaza Strip is one of the most crowded areas in the world. It suffers from social fragility and a severe shortage of resources and medical supplies, which puts its people into a dangerous stage in combating the disease,” A’abed said.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) warned in a press statement of “catastrophic consequences if the virus largely spreads in the Gaza Strip amid tight siege, shortage of electricity and other basic needs.”