Ramadan is underway in the tightly packed Gaza Strip. Officials have eased some restrictions on social distancing allowing Palestinians a reprieve from isolation to buy sweets and gifts to celebrate the Islamic holy month.
Shops and street vendors opened for a first time in weeks, with many returning to work wearing face masks. Ordinarily Palestinians observe Ramadan by fasting sunrise and sunset and visiting relatives, praying, and shopping for gifts after nightfall. Because health officials closed mosques in March, many people have cleared space in and around their homes for prayers instead. Some used their balconies, others moved furniture from their living rooms.
However, with half of Gaza’s roughly 2 million people unemployed and around three-quarters of the population living off some form of food assistance, crowds were unavoidable at charities and restaurants distributing food.
As tradition, groups of Palestinian Christians packaged dates and water for Muslims to break their fast with and distributed the parcels to drivers on Gaza’s roads at sunset.
Twenty Palestinians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip, of whom all were located inside 13 government-run isolation centers. Five are being treated in isolation rooms inside of a hospital. Thus far no confirmed cases have reached the general public.
To limit the entry of the coronavirus and prevent its spread, health officials required Palestinians returning to Gaza to spend 14 days in quarantine. The first cycle of isolated returnees was released last week and another 1,000 remain in isolation at government centers.
Tests to verify the coronavirus are running short in Gaza. Around 4,600 have been administered since the pandemic began. By comparison, around 28,000 tests were conducted in the same period in the West Bank where 355 tested positive for COVID-19.