Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Monday temporarily reopened the border crossing with Egypt, shut due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, to allow hundreds of Palestinians to return.
One-way traffic into the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing would be allowed for the coming four days, Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said.
All those returning would be put into compulsory 21-day quarantine, which could be extended, interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm said.
So far, only 13 COVID-19 infections have been confirmed in Gaza, all from people returning to the territory or those in contact with them while in quarantine.
But the Strip, under an Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007, is one of the most densely-populated territories on earth and has a struggling health system. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from reaching Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.
Hamas has imposed a series of measures including closing markets, schools and mosques.
Gaza, ruled by the Islamist terror group since 2007, ran out of COVID-19 testing kits last week, but the World Health Organization delivered 480 kits on Sunday.
At the Rafah arrivals hall on Monday, returning residents were met by dozens of police officers, doctors and nurses wearing protective medical equipment.
Among the returnees were students and people who had been outside Gaza for treatment for other diseases, said doctor Mohamed Abu Salamieh.
The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is the only exit from Gaza, apart from into Israel.