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Fears rise as two COVID-19 cases confirmed in besieged Gaza Strip

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It was an announcement Palestinians were hoping they would never have to hear in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, the first two cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in the besieged Gaza Strip, home to over 2 million Palestinians.

According to the health officials in Gaza, the two patients had recently traveled back to Gaza from Pakistan through the Rafah crossing, and were immediately put into quarantine upon their arrival.

They tested positive for the virus Saturday night, and are being held in a field hospital in  the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

Officials said on Friday that nearly 1,200 Palestinians  who recently entered Gaza from abroad were being kept in quarantine in 18 different locations.

Authorities in Gaza have been taking precautionary measures over the past few weeks, ever since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Schools, public markets, and event halls were closed over the past few weeks, and on Sunday, Hamas stepped up measures to curb the spread of the virus by closing down cafes, restaurants, and suspending Friday prayers at mosques across the enclave.

Officials urged Gazans to practice “social distancing” measures and avoid leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary.

As the coronavirus spread across Israel and the West Bank, experts have expressed fear over the potential disaster if the virus reached Gaza, which has been under a brutal air, land, and sea blockade since 2007.

Along with having one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s residents are refugees, living in crowded refugee camps with poor building, water, and electricity infrastructures.

Last week, Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory, said he was “particularly worried” about COVID-19 reaching Gaza, where the healthcare system “was collapsing even before the pandemic.”

“Its stocks of essential drugs are chronically low,” Lynk said. “Its natural sources of drinkable water are largely contaminated. Its electrical system provides sporadic power. Deep poverty amid appalling socio-economic conditions is prevalent throughout the Strip.”

Lynk added that Israel was legally obligated, as an occupying power, to ensure that it provides all the necessary means available to prevent the spread of the disease in Gaza and the West Bank.

At the request of the World Health Organization (WHO), Israel has reportedly transferred an estimated 400 coronavirus tests to the West Bank, which has a population of more than 3 million people, and only 200 test kits to Gaza.

Activists have voiced concerns that if the virus continues to spread, and Israel continues to control what moves in and out of Gaza and the West Bank, it could severely impact the Palestinians’ efforts to fight the virus.

Israeli authorities announced on Saturday night that they would be shutting down the borders of the entire West Bank, and Gaza, with Israel. Only health workers with the proper permission would be allowed in and out of the territory.

Up until Saturday, Bethlehem, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the West Bank, was the only place in the occupied territory that had been completely shut off to Israel and other parts of the West Bank.

In the past few days, however, the virus has spread to other districts in the West Bank, forcing the Palestinian Authority to enforce similar lockdown measures in other districts of the territory.

As of Sunday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank reached 59 — including 17 patients from Bethlehem who were in recovery– with cases being reported in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Nablus, and Hebron.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced a nationwide lockdown and curfew, similar to the one in Bethlehem, preventing people from leaving their homes and moving throughout their respective cities for the next two weeks.

Exceptions will be applied to people working at pharmacies, hospitals, grocery stores, as well as journalists.

Shtayyeh also announced a ban on movement between the governorates in the West Bank, and a ban on residents of villages and refugee camps from moving between their neighborhoods and the city centers.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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20 Responses

  1. Misterioso on March 22, 2020, 1:16 pm

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/gaza-confirms-coronavirus-cases-ongoing-blockade-200322072036366.html

    “Fear, anxiety as besieged Gaza confirms first 2 coronavirus cases”

    “Authorities in the coastal enclave have shut restaurants and cafes, while Friday prayers have also been suspended.” Al Jazeera, March 22, 2020, by Farah Najjar and Maram Humaid.

    EXCERPT:
    “Palestinian officials have announced the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip.

    “Deputy Health Minister Youssef Abulreesh said late on Saturday the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza’s Rafah border with neighbouring Egypt on Thursday.
    “The pair exhibited symptoms of the illness, which include a dry cough and high fever, Abulreesh told a news conference.

    “He added that the two were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

    “Abulreesh urged Gaza’s nearly two million residents to take precautionary measures and to practise social distancing by staying home in a bid to halt the potential spread of the virus.”

  2. lonely rico on March 22, 2020, 8:34 pm

    The evil, sadistic Israeli destruction of Gaza and the caged Palestinians in this benighted land must end.

    The world community must step up and rescue Gaza from a Zionist holocaust.

    • Rashers2 on March 23, 2020, 11:03 am

      @lonely rico, “The world community must step up and rescue Gaza from a Zionist holocaust.” It should; but it won’t: first, because the “world community” is fragmenting and the probability of co-ordinated actions diminish in direct proportion to the fragmentation; and, second, because it’s done the square root of zero since 2007, when the Gazan siege in its present form began – why would it start at a time when many wealthy countries themselves face the prospect of sudden and widespread poverty, food insecurity and even civil disorder? The only proximate prospect of the rest of the world causing the landscape of international relations to change fundamentally is if, after many casualties and a global economic depression, it emerged that COVID-19 were not, in fact, the “Chinese virus” Trump et al. describe but a gift to the world from the Land of the Free, developed at Fort Detrick, Md. or some similar, covert establishment. IF this transpired and the truth were not able to be suppressed, a new world order would be the result and Palestinians would be among the collateral beneficiaries of this. Tragically, in the meantime, many Gazans are likely to perish for the Ziopaths’ want of humanity.

  3. Misterioso on March 23, 2020, 9:15 am

    Meanwhile, Trump and Netanyahu’s puppet master, multi-billionaire Zionist zealot, Sheldon Adelson, continues to rake it in in Las Vegas:

    https://israelpalestinenews.org/sheldon-adelson-keeps-casinos-open-despite-chronovirus-danger/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Updates

    “Sheldon Adelson keeps casinos open despite coronavirus danger”
    If Americans Knew Blog, by Alison Weir, March 17/2020

    EXCERPT:
    “While other major Las Vegas casinos are following health recommendations that they close to protect employees and the public from the coronavirus pandemic, Sheldon Adelson is keeping his casinos open. Adelson’s profits are often used to promote pro-Israel policies through millions of dollars of donations to political candidates.

    “Bloomberg news reports that while other major Las Vegas casinos have closed to protect employees and the public from the coronavirus pandemic, Sheldon Adelson is keeping his casinos open.

    “According to Casino.org: ‘From the Strip to New England to the Midwest to California, commercial and tribal operators announced over the weekend they’d either voluntarily close casinos or do so to comply with state government orders barring large gatherings.’

    “On Monday President Trump called for Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, and the Nevada governor ordered schools and state offices to close.

    “Unlike governors elsewhere, the order did not include casinos, a powerful force in Nevada. However, the governor asked local governments to enforce a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline that all events with attendance above 50 be canceled or postponed.

    “Adelson’s billions used on behalf of Israel

    “Adelson is known for using his casino profits to obtain US policies beneficial for Israel by donating to American candidates for office. Adelson’s net worth is in the range of $37 billion.

    “In recent years, Adelson and his wife Miriam, an Israeli citizen, gave $205.83 million to Republican campaign efforts.

    “The Adelsons are credited with Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem (after both Republican and Democratic presidents had long kept it in Tel Aviv), Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and the recent Trump-Kushner ‘peace plan.’

    “Adelson is a fervent advocate for Israel despite its long record of human rights violations and violations of U.S. laws, documented by Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, Foreign Service Journal, and others.”

    • Rashers2 on March 23, 2020, 11:07 am

      Some people defy description because words like “obscene” are just way inadequate.

    • Rashers2 on March 23, 2020, 11:16 am

      Credit, I just read, to Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), who has ordered the closure of ALL casinos in the State.

  4. Jackdaw on March 23, 2020, 9:47 am

    Maybe Phil and Adam will lead a relief mission of concerned Mondoweiss followers to come to Gaza and provide hands-on help.

    *or not*

    • Misterioso on March 23, 2020, 11:19 am

      @Jackdaw

      Another moronic comment spewed forth by a programmed Zionist.
      Grow up or shut up!!!

    • bcg on March 23, 2020, 11:29 am

      @Jackdaw: Israel controls all access to Gaza, it determines who enters and who leaves, Gaza ia a wholly owned subsidiary of Shin Bet. I doubt they would allow a mission of concerned Mondoweiss followers (or anyone else) in.

      • Jackdaw on March 23, 2020, 1:10 pm

        Phil and Adam can walk on water, while the rest of you guys can enter via Egypt.

        Mondoweiss fails a ‘gut test’.

        *not surprised*

      • Misterioso on March 23, 2020, 2:13 pm

        @Jackdaw

        You have a peculiar ability to dig your hole even deeper.

        It’s long since time that you left your mother’s basement (or Hasbara Central) and learned the ways of the world.

      • catalan on March 23, 2020, 5:34 pm

        “Israel controls all access to Gaza, it determines who enters and who leaves, “ bcg
        I thought that the Rafah crossing is run by Hamas and Egypt with no Israeli involvement. It’s up to Egypt to determine how much freedom of movement there should be. Why spread fake news?

      • oldgeezer on March 24, 2020, 1:28 pm

        @catalan

        You thought wrong. Operated and controlled to some degree by hamas and egypt but controlled by Israel who ultimately decides who may cross that border through a combination of the population register and a 48 hour notice requirement of any foreign nationals (combined with a right of refusal of their entry).

        Oh and the right to order the closure of the crossing.

    • Eva Smagacz on March 23, 2020, 4:53 pm

      Jackdaw,

      you said: “Maybe Phil and Adam will lead a relief mission of concerned Mondoweiss followers to come to Gaza and provide hands-on help”

      Why do you think it is Phil’s or Adam’s responsibility? Gaza is under Israel’s belligerent occupation, and it is responsibility of Israel to care for it’s population and especially for welfare of it’s one million children.

      • Jackdaw on March 25, 2020, 2:23 pm

        Why do Phil and Adam think it’s their responsibility to meddle in Arab -Israeli affairs to begin with?

        BTW, Gaza is not under belligerent occupation by Israel since Israel quit Gaza in 2005.

      • Mooser on March 26, 2020, 12:18 pm

        “Why do Phil and Adam think it’s their responsibility to meddle in Arab -Israeli affairs to begin with?”

        Why do Sheldon Adelson and AIPAC think it’s their responsibility to meddle in “Arab-Israeli affairs”?

        Why does the US “meddle” in Israel by sending them money?

  5. Jackdaw on March 24, 2020, 2:44 am

    @Mister Zero

    For your information, I live in Israel and my mother died here in Israel last year. She lived in my basement with her full time Filipina health aide.

    I’ve twice had to hunker down in Israel and hide from Hamas rockets.

    Mister Zero. Why don’t you lay yours out on the table?
    Or, do you have something to hide?

    • Mooser on March 26, 2020, 12:21 pm

      “For your information, I live in Israel and my mother died here in Israel last year. She lived in my basement with her full time Filipina health aide.” “Jackdaw”

      There must be many Israeli and Zionist chat-sites, blogs and Facebook pages where you can find support, share experiences, warnings about rocket attacks, and agreeable conversation.
      I could look up a few on Google and give you links, if you like.

      • Jackdaw on March 26, 2020, 3:39 pm

        I don’t need any support, nor do need to seek validation from a website.

        Daddy?

      • Mooser on March 27, 2020, 3:15 pm

        “I don’t need any support, nor do need to seek validation from a website.” “Jackdaw”

        Of course not. Why should your relationship with a website be any different than your relationship with anything or anybody else?

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