Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Two COVID-19 cases confirmed in Gaza, West Bank locks down

By The Palestine Monitor - March 24, 2020
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Health Care] [Gaza]

Gaza has confirmed their first two cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, raising fears about how the besieged Strip’s already struggling medical system will cope with the novel virus.

The two cases, men aged 79 and 63, returned to Gaza from Pakistan via the Rafah border with Egypt over the weekend. 

Deputy Health Minister Youssef Abulreesh told a news conference the men were displaying symptoms of a dry cough and high fever, and were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Those who have been in contact with the pair have also been quarantines, officials state. 

Abulreesh urged Gaza's nearly two million residents to take precautionary measures and to practise social distancing by staying home in an attempt to halt the potential spread of the virus. 

Many believe Gaza’s isolation due to severe restrictions on cross-border movement of people from Israel’s 13-year blockade, may have delayed the virus’s arrival. 

However, due to the high population density and overcrowded cities and refugee camps, the rapid spread of the virus is a major concern.

In an attempt to stop the spread, Hamas, the governing party of Gaza, closed street markets and wedding halls on Friday, after earlier closing schools. Almost 1,300 people returning from abroad have been placed into quarantine. Sanitation crews have been spraying disinfectant in streets and public buildings.

According to the World Health Organisation’s Gaza office, the territory has 62 ventilators but may need another 100 if the virus takes hold.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered people to stay at home for 14 days from Sunday night in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, with exemptions for medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers. People will be allowed out to shop for food.

“All citizens are barred from leaving their homes as of 10 p.m. tonight,” Shtayyeh said in a statement to reporters. 

Palestinian authorities said that, as of Sunday, there were a total of 59 confirmed cases of the virus in the West Bank, 17 of whom have recovered. The Israeli Health Ministry has reported 1,071 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and one death. 

Shtayyeh also said that all people returning from abroad would now be placed in quarantine facilities for 14 days near their hometowns. 

In a rare move aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic, prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque have also been suspended as of 23 March, the Muslim Waqf Council announced on Sunday. 

“The Waqf council decided to temporarily suspend the arrival of worshipers through all of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque’s gates as of dawn on March 23, 2020, responding affirmatively to the recommendations of religious and medical authorities,” adding that the call to prayer from the minarets would continue,” Anadolu Agency quoted the council as saying in a statement.

“The Waqf council feels bitter about taking this decision, but it was compelled to do so to preserve citizens’ lives and health,” the council added.

It is the first time since 1967 that Islam's third-holiest site will be closed to worshippers because of a directive from the Waqf, the Muslim foundation that runs the compound, according to Al-Aqsa Mosque director Sheikh Omar al-Kisswani.

It is the first time since 1967 that Islam's third-holiest site will be closed to worshippers because of a directive from the Waqf, the Muslim foundation that runs the compound.

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