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EU delegation promises to help Gaza get virus vaccines

During visit to enclave, bloc’s representative says issue complicated, but ‘the moment these vaccines become available, we will try our utmost’

Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff (C), head of the European Union's mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with other EU representatives, visits a desalination plant in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 8, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff (C), head of the European Union's mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with other EU representatives, visits a desalination plant in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 8, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

A European Union delegation visited Gaza on Tuesday, pledging to help the Palestinian enclave access coronavirus vaccines as the epidemic there continues to escalate.

EU representative to the Palestinian Territories Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, who led the delegation of roughly 20 people, said the bloc would work with the United Nations “to facilitate [vaccination] to those most in need.”

“It’s a very complicated issue, but… the moment these vaccines become available, we will try our utmost,” he said.

Gaza, ruled by the Islamist terror group Hamas since 2007, is under a tight Israeli-enforced blockade, one factor that has led to weak health infrastructure in the Palestinian enclave. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction and fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008, from obtaining weaponry.

Hamas acted fast in March to forestall the virus, only allowing entry to a limited number of people, who were then required to isolate for three weeks in quarantine centers.

Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff (center) visits a desalination plant in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

In mid-August, Gaza had recorded only around 100 COVID-19 cases, but the past two weeks have seen a rapid deterioration in containment.

On Monday, Hamas said it had received 20,000 test kits from the World Health Organization, after warning it could no longer perform testing due to a shortage.

Facing a surge in cases, Hamas has also announced a lockdown on weekends lasting from December 11 to the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques.

Gaza has now registered nearly 25,600 coronavirus infections, including around 150 deaths.

Israel’s government has meanwhile announced the procurement of millions of doses of vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna, but has not yet commented on whether its procurement would cater to Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza.

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