GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: The Palestinian Health Ministry announced early Sunday that two residents who returned recently from Pakistan to the Gaza Strip tested positive for the coronavirus, the first cases to be diagnosed in the Palestinian enclave, the AP has reported.
The development added to fears of a potential outbreak in crowded Gaza, which has an overstretched health care system after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, cross-border conflicts with Israel and Palestinian political division.
Hundreds of Gazans have returned home in the past two weeks, but only 92 people have been examined, highlighting the territory’s limited tested capacity.
Gaza has been mostly cut off from the world as Israel and Egypt imposed severe movement restrictions following the 2007 takeover by the militant Hamas group. This is believed to have delayed the arrival of the virus.
More than 1,270 people are quarantined at hospitals, hotels and schools after crossing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt, the ministry said. On Saturday, Hamas’ Interior Ministry shut down wedding halls and banned weekly street markets as precautionary measures.
The vast majority of infected people recover from the virus. For most, it produces only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the coronavirus can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and even death, for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
A 360-square-kilometer (139-square-mile) stretch of land, the Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. In 2018, the World Bank said its economy was in “free fall” and called for urgent actions by Israel and the international community to avoid collapse. Unemployment stands at 52% and poverty levels are 50%.
According to Wafa news agency report, Palestine’s ambassador to Pakistan Ahmad Raba’ee confirmed today that no cases of novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) were reported among the Palestinian community in the country.
Raba’ee said all the members of the Palestinian community in Pakistan, including students at Pakistani universities, remain in good health so far.