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Covid-19: Ten Palestinians die in 24 hours as Gaza reaches 'dangerous stage' in pandemic

Rising cases of coronavirus infections have strained the medical system in the besieged Gaza Strip
A Palestinian man walks past a mural showing mask-clad doctors in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, 16 November (AFP)

Ten Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health in the enclave reported on Wednesday.

Rising cases of coronavirus infections have strained the medical system in the Gaza Strip, home to two million Palestinians who have been living under an Israel-led air, sea and land siege since 2007.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza issued an up-to-date map showing that the majority of Covid-19 infections were in the Gaza City district, with 13,809 total cases, followed by the North Gaza district with 6,962 cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Although the pandemic started in March in most countries, owing to restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza, the deaths were only recorded there in August.  

In the past 24 hours, 935 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths have been recorded in Gaza, bringing the total number of deaths to 220, the ministry reported. Currently, there are 8,851 active cases, 364 of whom are hospitalised and 229 receiving intensive care treatment.

Mobile medical units were set by the Ministry of Health in September to help ease the pressure on hospitals in the Gaza Strip and to test elderly and vulnerable people in their homes instead of in clinical wards. 

Medical workers in Gaza have warned that the health system is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of equipment, with only around 100 ventilators available and testing capacity halved due to chronic shortages. 

On 3 December, schools and mosques were closed as Gaza went into a partial lockdown in an attempt to tackle the spread of the virus. 

'Bottleneck of the crisis'

Salameh Maarouf, a government spokesperson in Gaza, said on Wednesday that the “upcoming two weeks are the bottleneck of the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic”.

“If we maintain stability in the numbers of infections and serious cases, we can say that we have overcome the dangerous stage,” he said, adding that the medical system was unable to provide treatment to all people infected with Covid-19.

'With Covid-19, the harsh reality for the people of Gaza is quickly deteriorating'

- Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, EU

Palestinians are expected to obtain 4m doses of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, at the beginning of 2021, as part of an international aid programme for vulnerable countries, according to the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Health official Osama al-Najjar in the occupied West Bank.

European Union representative Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff vowed during a visit to the Gaza Strip last week that the EU will help Gaza get a Covid-19 vaccine.

“With Covid-19, the harsh reality for the people of Gaza is quickly deteriorating, and all duty bearers should act now and respect their obligations under international law,” von Burgsdorff said.

On Saturday, several Israeli officials argued that Palestinians in Gaza should not receive medical assistance from Israel if there was no progress in prisoner exchange negotiations with Hamas, the movement that governs the Gaza Strip.