Gaza in lock­down to try to con­tain its first COVID-19 out­break


GAZA: A lock­down took hold in Gaza on Tues­day af­ter con­fir­ma­tion of the first cases of COVID-19 in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion of the Pales­tinian en­clave, whose re­stricted bor­ders have spared it from wide in­fec­tion. Health au­thor­i­ties in the Ha­mas Is­lamist-run ter­ri­tory of two mil­lion peo­ple are con­cerned over the po­ten­tially dis­as­trous com­bi­na­tion of poverty, densely pop­u­lated refugee camps and lim­ited hospi­tal fa­cil­i­ties in deal­ing with an out­break.

A gov­ern­ment spokesman said four cases of the coro­n­avirus were con­firmed in a sin­gle fam­ily in a refugee camp, the first in Gaza that did not in­volve peo­ple quar­an­tined in bor­der fa­cil­i­ties af­ter cross­ing into the coastal en­clave from Egypt and Is­rael. Cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns, both Egypt and Is­rael main­tain tight re­stric­tions at the Gaza fron­tier, leav­ing Gazans with lit­tle ac­cess to the out­side world for years and hos­pi­tals of­ten com­plain­ing of short­ages in med­i­cal sup­plies. "What hap­pens if one of us gets in­fected?" asked Khaled Sami, a Gaza res­i­dent. "When peo­ple are se­ri­ously ill, they send them into Is­rael, the West Bank or Egypt. Ev­ery­thing is closed now and who is go­ing to open the gate for some­one suf­fer­ing from the coro­n­avirus?"

With busi­nesses, schools and mosques or­dered shut­tered late on Mon­day for at least 48 hours, Gaza's streets were largely de­serted. But some peo­ple scram­bled to buy es­sen­tials in gro­ceries and bak­eries, a lim­ited num­ber of which were open. "I hope the whole world can now help Gaza. We can't re­solve this is­sue on our own," said an­other Gaza res­i­dent, who asked to be iden­ti­fied only as Abu Ahmed.

De­spite the lock­down, hun­dreds at­tended the fu­neral of four Is­lamic Ji­had gun­men who died in an ex­plo­sion in Gaza on Mon­day. The cause of the blast was not im­me­di­ately dis­closed. But in many places, only the sounds of home gen­er­a­tors, used to make up for power cuts that can stretch up to 20 hours a day, could be heard.

The health cri­sis came amid height­ened ten­sions fu­elled by the launch­ing of spo­radic rocket at­tacks and in­cen­di­ary bal­loons at Is­rael, which has re­sponded with air strikes against Ha­mas po­si­tions.

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