Palestinian-American family stranded by coronavirus in Gaza return home to Florida, where cases skyrocket

Palestinian-American family stranded by coronavirus in Gaza return home to Florida, where cases skyrocket
Florida couple were finally able to return to the US after being stuck in Gaza due to Covid-19.
3 min read
12 August, 2020
The couple were finally able to get home [Getty, stock image]

A married couple and their children have finally been able to return to the US after being stranded in the Gaza Strip by restrictions on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Adria and Ayman Arafat were stranded in Gaza for months after lockdown measures were swiftly put in place resulting from a covid-19 outbreak in the territory.

Gaza’s covid-19 official infection rate is 81, with one death.

Part of the reason the numbers remain so low is due to a series of blockades imposed on the Palestinian territory by Egypt and Israel.

The married couple had arrived in Gaza via Egypt’s Rafah border - which it had briefly opened for department Gazans and those who hold foreign passports - last December. They, along with their children, were there to visit relatives.

The family live in Florida. Adria Arafat is a head teacher in a school in Panama City, Florida.

The US state is faring far worse with its covid-19 numbers, having recorded more than 530,000 infections and, as of Monday, 8,404 deaths.

“That is scary, but as long as you take the precautions and you’re careful ... you just have to trust in God and go from there,” she told Reuters.

Her husband Ayman, a businessman, added: “A part of me doesn’t want to leave, but my children are there and like them we will have to cope, we have to.”

The blockades have been condemned by human rights groups as collective punishment.

Rafah crossing will be open for three days to allow Palestinians stranded by the pandemic in Egypt to return to Gaza.

Health officials raised concerns that 20 per cent of the 3,000 returnees could be infected, and people crossing into Gaza will be tested for covid-19 and spend three weeks in quarantine.

Children return to schools despite infection fears
Hundreds of thousands of children returned to school in Gaza on Saturday 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 Islamist Hamas-ruled 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.

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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