LIVE
News|Gaza
Gaza declares COVID-19 disaster with health system near collapse
With a lack of ventilators, PPE, and medicine, officials say Israel’s siege is a ‘death sentence’ for Gaza’s coronavirus patients.
Medical workers in Gaza face a serious shortage of equipment to battle the quickly spreading COVID-19 outbreak [Walid Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]
By Walid Mahmoud
23 Nov 2020
Gaza City – A rapid rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip has reached a “catastrophic stage”, with the blockaded Palestinian enclave’s medical system likely to collapse soon, health officials warn.
COVID is spreading exponentially in Gaza – one of the most crowded places on Earth – especially in refugee camps, and the health ministry has warned of “disastrous” implications.
KEEP READING
Gaza’s ‘quarantine within a quarantine’ must end
Gaza children struggle with studies during COVID-19 lockdown
Israel travel ban: Gaza nurses protest loss of permits, layoffs
Gaza, Hamas and the New Middle East
Dr Fathi Abuwarda, adviser to the minister of health, told Al Jazeera the recent spike in infections could soon become uncontrollable, with hundreds of people contracting the virus each day and nowhere to treat them.
“We have entered the catastrophe stage and if we continue like this, the healthcare system will collapse,” Abuwarda said. “The best solution is a full lockdown for 14 days, which will allow medical teams to control and combat the virus, with only shops that provide food supplies kept open.”
Abuwarda said the health ministry had prepared Gaza’s European Hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, but the hospital’s capacity was insufficient, with 300 of its 360 beds already occupied.
“In the Gaza Strip, there are about 500 [hospital] beds scattered across the coastal enclave…. But considering some 5,000 Palestinians live in each square kilometre in Gaza, these hospitals can’t accommodate all cases,” he said.
A lack of coronavirus testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) is also complicating the fight, as Israel continues to impose restrictions on medical supplies reaching Gaza.
A lack of testing kits is hampering the battle against coronavirus in Gaza [Walid Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]
Gaza has been under a tight land, air and sea siege for more than 13 years by Israel and Egypt, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Early hopes that Gaza’s isolation would spare it from the pandemic were dashed as the densely populated coastal region came under severe threat with a dilapidated healthcare system that is unable to handle the onslaught of patients.
On August 24, only four Palestinians were reported to have been infected with the virus in the Gaza Strip. As of Monday, 14,768 people had contracted COVID-19, with 65 deaths. The number of critical cases stands at 79.
‘Imminent catastrophe’
Officials say Israel’s siege is a death sentence for Gaza’s COVID-19 patients.
“The Gaza Strip lacks oxygen-generating machines, ventilators, protective gear, and hygiene materials,” said Dr Basim Naim, head of international relations in the Hamas-led government.
“Thirty-two percent of basic drugs and 62 percent of drugs and materials for medical laboratories are not available.”
The former minister of health called on the international community and aid agencies to immediately intervene to stop the “imminent catastrophe”, accusing Israel of restricting the entry of medical supplies under “the pretext of security”.
“Hamas’ leadership will not accept the death of the Palestinian people either by starving or by leaving them to die by the pandemic,” said Naim. “We call on the international community to provide us with the financial resources needed to purchase all necessary items to combat the virus.”
The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2.1 million Palestinians [Walid Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]
Salama Marouf, head of the government’s information office, underscored the need to bring life-saving ventilators into Gaza. He added that “all measures are on the table now, including a full lockdown” to get infections under control.
Officials say despite Egyptian mediation, Israeli still refuses to allow ventilators into Gaza, making granting that permission conditional upon the return of soldiers’ bodies kept by Hamas since the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.
The Gaza Strip – a 100km-long (45-mile) coastal area home to more than 2.1 million Palestinians – was one of the last regions to be hit by COVID-19 worldwide.
But many people here ignored advice to wear masks, held large wedding parties and protests against Israel’s occupation, and continue to socialise at mass gatherings.
Abuwarda highlighted the “lack of commitment” among Palestinians when it comes to wearing masks, social distancing, and practising proper hygiene. “We must count on people’s awareness to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
Drastic measures
The influx of coronavirus patients into regular hospitals also threatens those with other illnesses.
“These hospitals are not fully prepared to deal with COVID-19 patients and will negatively impact the medical service provided to normal patients,” said Naim.
Many Palestinians were in favour of the government taking drastic measures to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus.
But some officials say they cannot impose a general lockdown as people’s minimum essential needs would go unmet because of the deteriorated state of the economy.
Ahmad Abu Mustapha, 35, an electrical equipment shop owner, called on the government to apply a full lockdown to “help save lives” even if it inflicts economic pain.
“We fear for ourselves, our families and children. We want a full lockdown even if this harms us economically,” said Mustapha.
Journalist Hassan Islayih, 32, agreed on the need to shut down movement in the Gaza Strip, noting “people’s awareness is not as it should be”.
“Today the situation is dangerous. Some people will lose their jobs, which is sad, but there is no other solution than a full lockdown,” he said.
Palestinians load up on supplies as Gaza officials contemplate a full lockdown [Walid Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
RELATED
OPINION
When will the world stop ignoring what is happening in Gaza?
If the world continues to treat our situation as ‘normal’, it may soon be too late to save my homeland and my people.
Majed Abusalama
13 Sep 2020
Gaza children struggle with studies during COVID-19 lockdown
With high poverty, power cuts, and poor internet amid Israel’s blockade, remote learning has been a nightmare.
16 Oct 2020
Israel travel ban: Gaza nurses protest loss of permits, layoffs
Nurses angry at Israel, which has restricted entry of Palestinians from Gaza, and the hospital that fired them.
22 Oct 2020
MORE FROM NEWS
Dow closes above 35,000 as US stocks rebound from jitters
Dozens of Palestinians hurt in confrontations with Israeli forces
China sanctions former US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, others
Millions of Lebanese risk losing access to safe water: UNICEF
MOST READ
Can Israel criminalise Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the US?
OPINION
Canada is deporting its ‘guardian angels’
In Herat, ex-Mujahideen commander leads efforts to resist Taliban
UN Security Council condemns Northern Cyprus resort plan
Advertisement
About
Connect
Our Channels
Our Network
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2021 Al Jazeera Media Network
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless.
You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen. To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.
Dismiss
Cookie preferences