Gaza reports first coronavirus cases outside quarantine, declares lockdown

Gaza reports first coronavirus cases outside quarantine, declares lockdown
Authorities in Gaza immediately imposed a lockdown, prompting locals to make a rush for supplies in supermarkets.
3 min read
25 August, 2020
Coronavirus continues to be a problem in the region [Getty]
Gaza has reported its first coronavirus cases, prompting authorities to immediately announce a 48-hour lockdown period and curfew, as the besieged territory grapples under the weight of a broken healthcare system and bombardment from Israel.

Authorities confirmed four cases of Covid-19 in a refugee camp from a single family in central Gaza, a government spokesperson revealed to Reuters.

"A full curfew will be imposed starting tonight and in all of the Gaza Strip," said Salama Marouf, chairman of the government's media office.

In response, people across the Strip descended on shops and supermarkets to stock up on food and hygiene supplies, whilst police vehicles with loudspeakers instructed people to return to their homes.

The case had been discovered by healthcare authorities after a woman travelled to the West Bank, where she tested positive.

Those who visited a supermarket outside a hospital in central Gaza have been told to quarantine and report to medics.

"Having this happen on top of the existing health system challenges is a matter of concern for us," said Dr. Ayadil Saparbekov, head of the World Health Organisation's local Health Emergencies Team.

"We have been beefing up our support before this event by providing medical equipment and personal protective equipment as well as laboratory testing equipment," he said.

Children return to schools

Earlier this month thousands of children returned to school in Gaza after a five-month suspension aimed at reining in the spread of the novel coronavirus in the crowded Palestinian territory.

Ziyad Thabit, undersecretary of the education ministry in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave, said pupils would follow a remedial curriculum throughout August and classes would be limited to four a day.

"The ministry has prepared a plan based on various scenarios for dealing with the school year," he said.

The United Nations agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, which provides education to hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza, said over 285,000 pupils had returned to its 277 schools.

In a statement, it said it has "put in place preventative measures such as providing all the necessary materials to sanitise schools" and training staff on how to use sanitation materials effectively.

It said it would cancel morning assemblies and keep children in classrooms during breaks to avoid too many pupils gathering in one place at a time.

"The measures will be reviewed once a week and improved as necessary," UNRWA said.

Pupils were not required to wear masks or keep distancing, but teachers at UNRWA schools poured sanitiser on students' hands, reports stated.

Around a million people live in Gaza, many of them in poverty and a third of them refugees. The territory has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, which has impacted its health system.

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