Gaza running out of coronavirus tests, warns Hamas-run Health Ministry
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Gaza running out of coronavirus tests, warns Hamas-run Health Ministry

Ashraf al-Qidra says inventory of kits will be depleted within days, appeals to international organizations for help; three more people in Strip recover from virus

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, spray disinfectant in the streets of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, during a campaign aimed at slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus, March 26, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, spray disinfectant in the streets of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, during a campaign aimed at slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus, March 26, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry on Sunday said authorities in the Gaza Strip have nearly run out of kits to test for the highly contagious coronavirus.

“What is available to us in terms of coronavirus laboratory tests is very scarce. It will be gone within days,” Ashraf al-Qidra told a press conference in Gaza. “Therefore, we turn to international organizations and relevant international and local parties to provide a sufficient amount of the laboratory tests.”

Qidra said the ministry was testing people being held in quarantine facilities around the Strip.

Medical professionals in Gaza had conducted, as of Saturday, 1,157 tests on people in Gaza for COVID-19, according to a ministry document.

There were also 1,897 people in quarantine facilities in the coastal enclave, the document stated.

Both the World Health Organization and the Palestinian Authority have provided authorities in Gaza with the testing materials.

Members of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), set up outdoor tents for the preliminary medical examination of suspected coronavirus patients at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on March 12, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Qidra also announced that three more people in Gaza recovered from COVID-19. The three will be sent from a field hospital at the Rafah border crossing to a quarantine facility nearby, he said.

Thus far, Palestinian authorities have said that 12 people in Gaza have been infected by the contagion, including six who recovered.

The Gaza Health Ministry has said that all those infected by the virus in Gaza have been held in quarantine and have not mixed with the broader population.

In early March, Abdelnasser Soboh, the head of the World Health Organization’s sub-office in Gaza, said that the coastal enclave’s health infrastructure would not be able to handle hundreds or thousands of cases of the virus.

“The health system in Gaza is already shaky and barely functioning. It cannot take on the burden of a large number of cases,” he told The Times of Israel, warning that such a scenario could contribute to its collapse.

Hospitals in Gaza frequently lack sufficient medications and medical equipment and often rely on backup generators to maintain a consistent flow of power.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza, which has been aided by Egypt, has significantly undermined the territory’s health sector.

Qidra has said that the blockade “constitutes the primary threat to all citizens in Gaza and denies them their right to health and dignified living conditions.”

Israeli officials maintain that the blockade, a series of restrictions on the movement of goods and people, is in place to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from importing weapons, or the means to make them, into Gaza.

Last Thursday, Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of WHO’s mission to the Palestinians, said there were only 87 ventilators in Gaza, while noting up to 80 percent of them were already in use. Patients with serious cases of COVID-19 around the world have required ventilators to stay alive.

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