GAZA CITY: Authorities in Gaza on Sunday confirmed the first two cases of novel coronavirus, identifying them as Palestinians who had travelled to Pakistan and were being held in quarantine since their return.
The United Nations has warned that a Covid-19 outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given the high poverty rates and weak health system in the coastal strip under Israeli blockade since 2007.
Following the confirmed cases, a World Health Organisation (WHO) delegation arrived in Gaza to assess the situation, a Palestinian security source said.
Gaza’s health ministry said the two people who tested positive had been held in quarantine since their return from Pakistan on Thursday and had not interacted with the wider population.
“These two cases were recorded among those who returned to Gaza ... (and) did not mix with the residents of the Gaza Strip,” deputy health minister Yousef Abu Al-Reesh told reporters.
The sick, identified as two men, were in stable condition, the health ministry said.
Israel has enforced a blockade on Gaza since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the territory.
Israel argues the measures are necessary to isolate Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by most Western countries.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
Movement in and out of the territory — which was severely restricted by Israel and Egypt before the pandemic — has tightened in response to the coronavirus threat.
Authorities in Gaza have said that more than 2,700 Palestinians are in home-isolation, mostly people who had returned from Egypt.
A civilian group called the Al-Shajaiyah initiative hit the streets of Gaza City on Sunday after the cases were confirmed, working to clean the street with sanitising spray.
“We in the Gaza Strip have been under siege for 14 years and the possibilities (to protect ourselves) are very limited,” said Ahmad Al Wadya, a doctor helping to coordinate the effort.
Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020