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Covid-19: Hamas leader in Gaza tests positive

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas's political bureau in the Gaza Strip, is in generally good health, says Hamas spokesperson
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar speaks during a press conference for Quds (Jerusalem) day in Gaza City on 30 May 2019 (AFP/File photo)

The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday as the besieged coastal enclave is witnessing a worrying surge in the pandemic.

"Yahya Sinwar, the head of the political bureau of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was infected with the coronavirus today," Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told AFP.

"His general health condition is good. He is working as usual but in isolation."

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Sinwar is the latest Palestinian leader to contract the virus.

Long-time chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat died from coronavirus-related complications last month.

Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri has also tested positive for the virus.

On Sunday, the World Health Organisation delivered 15 ventilators to Gaza hospitals amid a spike in infections and following a warning by local health officials that hospitals had reached a breaking point and had almost run out of ventilators. 

Overcrowding among Gaza's population of two million and the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have long caused concerns about the virus's potential impact, but the territory had escaped a major outbreak up until August.

Since then, confirmed cases have reached more than 21,400 and daily infections have recently ranged between 700 and 800.

The WHO’s local health lead, Abdelnaser Soboh, warned last week that a fifth of tests were coming back positive, with many results from people aged over 60. 

On 15 November, authorities imposed a number of restrictions, including banning movement in the worst-hit areas, demanding shops close by 5pm, and banning indoor visits of more than 15 people.

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