Coronavirus test kits run out in Gaza as fears of ‘collapse’ grow Palestine


Health officials said Monday they could no longer perform coronavirus tests in the Gaza Strip due to a lack of kits amid a spike in cases in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The health ministry called for urgent action “to provide the necessary equipment” to screen the virus in the population.

The only laboratory in the territory capable of analyzing COVID-19 test samples had ceased its work “for lack of equipment,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We haven’t received any of the test materials in the past four days,” said Ameed Mushtaha, director of the lab.

He said the health ministry had asked the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to immediately send medical supplies to Gaza.

But the PA, which rules the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, suffers from its own shortage of tests and has also turned to the WHO for more information.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has warned that the Gaza Strip’s health system could collapse if the number of cases continues to rise.

The PA will receive COVID-19 vaccines from the COVID-19 Global Vaccine Access Center (COVAX). Gaza will receive a share, but it is not yet known when.

‘Containing the crisis’

A senior Hamas official and former health minister Bassem Naim said authorities typically perform “between 2,500 and 3,000 tests a day at a cost of between $ 75,000 and $ 100,000.”

“It is urgent to take measures to save the lives of the citizens of Gaza and contain the crisis,” he told AFP news agency.

The small, densely populated enclave is home to two million people and has been under Israeli blockade since 2007. Egypt has also sealed its border with Gaza.

Authorities closed Gaza’s borders at the start of the pandemic, allowing entry only to a limited number of people who then had to self-isolate for three weeks in quarantine centers.

As of mid-August, Gaza has only registered around 100 cases of the coronavirus, but the past two weeks have seen a sharp deterioration in containment.

Hamas on Thursday announced a lockdown on the weekend of December 11 at the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques.

Palestinian woman waits beside her luggage to leave Rafah border post with Egypt after months of closure [Said Khatib/AFP]

Completely closed

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has said it will re-impose a week-long lockdown in four of the 11 provinces.

“The governorates of Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Tulkarem will be completely closed from the evening of Thursday, December 10 for a period of seven days,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

“All commercial and service activities will be closed, except pharmacies, bakeries, supermarkets and grocery stores.”

The move comes after a two-week weekend and the evening curfew was imposed across the West Bank in late November. The curfew has been extended until December 17.

In total, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has recorded more than 74,160 cases of COVID-19, including nearly 700 deaths, in the West Bank.

In Gaza, nearly 25,600 infections have been officially recorded, including about 150 deaths.


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