The head of the Hamas-run security forces in the Gaza Strip, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was placed in quarantine after he spent time near the two Palestinians in the coastal enclave who tested positive for coronavirus, a government official in the territory said on Sunday.
Two Palestinians who recently returned to Gaza from Pakistan were infected with the virus, Yousef Abu al-Rish, the deputy minister of the Hamas-run Health Ministry, said on Saturday.
Abu Naim was present when the two infected Palestinians were being transported to a quarantine facility, Salama Maroof, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, told reporters.
Mahmoud Abu Watfa, Abu Naim’s deputy, was also placed in isolation because he too came close to the two people who tested positive for the virus, Maroof added.
Abu Naim and Abu Watfa are the two top officials who oversee the different branches of the internal security forces in Gaza, including the police and civil defense, among others.
In addition to the pair of security officials, 27 other people who came close to the two infected persons were put in quarantine, Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry, told reporters, adding that 19 of them were tested for the virus.
He said the results of the tests would become available in the coming hours.
A total of 1,271 people in Gaza were being held in quarantine facilities, while 2,071 were isolated in their homes, the ministry said on Saturday.
Maroof added that the two people who tested positive for the virus were in “good health” and had not experienced any symptoms of COVID-19.
Qidra said they were held at a quarantine facility before being diagnosed with the disease and said they were now at a special field hospital at the Rafah border crossing.
Experts have warned that an outbreak of the virus in densely populated Gaza could be catastrophic.
In early March, Abdelnaser Soboh, the head of the World Health Organization’s sub-office in Gaza, said 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.
Soboh said that the health institutions in Gaza carry a total of 2,500 beds and some 50-60 ventilators for adults.