Gaza sees spike in coronavirus cases: Health ministry

Magdy Dahir, deputy director of primary care at the Gaza health ministry, says situation is ‘dangerous’ with ‘clear increase in hospitalisations’.

In Gaza, 65,500 people have been infected with the coronavirus and 610 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Gaza’s health ministry said on Wednesday that more than a thousand cases of coronavirus were recorded during the previous day, the highest daily infection toll in several months.

The spike in the coastal Palestinian enclave, governed by Hamas since 2007, stands in contrast to the slowdown in infections in Israel, which maintains an air, land and sea blockade on Gaza – home to two million people.

“The epidemiological situation in the Gaza Strip is dangerous,” said Magdy Dahir, deputy director of primary care at the Gaza health ministry. “There is a clear increase in hospitalisations.”

At least 65,500 people have been infected with the coronavirus and 610 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The Hamas-run government, which imposed a 9pm (18:00 GMT) curfew on Saturday to curb transmission, has ordered new restrictions on gatherings beginning Wednesday, the Gaza Hotels and Restaurants Association said.

But in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila told the official Voice of Palestine radio that the rate of increase was slowing, after a wave of infections packed local hospitals.

In the West Bank, more than 175,000 people have been infected and 2,004 deaths have been recorded.

The Palestinian health ministry announced that, as of Monday morning, more than 69,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza had received one vaccine jab.

The Gaza Strip has received more than 80,000 vaccines, mostly Russian, from the United Arab Emirates while the Palestinian Authority received vaccines from the UN World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative as well as Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

‘Vaccine apartheid’

Israel, which has vaccinated more than half of its roughly 9.3 million residents, has been accused of “vaccine apartheid” for denying jabs to the Palestinian territories it occupies illegally.

Israel has provided 2,000 shots to the Palestinian Authority for the roughly three million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, Israel started to inoculate Palestinians working in the country and settlements in the occupied West Bank, more than two months after launching an immunisation blitz of its own population.

The latest daily increase in Israel was 442 cases, down from thousands of daily cases earlier in March.

With more than 4.6 million residents vaccinated, Israel continues its world-beating campaign that sent infection rates plummeting and allowed for some limited loosening of restrictions.

Israel says Palestinians are responsible for such health measures in their semi-autonomous areas but critics, rights groups and some Democratic Party legislators in the United States have pointed out that as an occupying power, Israel bears the responsibility for inoculating the population it exerts control over.

Israel has given limited doses to some Palestinians, but it says the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the general vaccination campaign.

On Tuesday, the Israeli health ministry said it detected a new Israeli variant of the coronavirus. It said the strain was rare, and not more contagious or deadly than other variants.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies