The Hamas-run Health Ministry announced on Wednesday seven new cases of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the enclave to nine.
The ministry said the newly infected persons were all “security men” and said they were among those who had come into contact with the two people who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
The ministry emphasized that the seven new cases have been in a quarantine facility in Gaza and had not come into contact with anyone outside it.
“The Health Ministry unequivocally affirms that no cases have been recorded inside of the Strip and what was uncovered was in one of the isolation centers,” it said in a statement.
Iyad Bazm, the spokesman of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, said all seven were in “good health.”
Early Sunday morning, Yousef Abu al-Rish, the deputy health minister, said that the first two Palestinians in Gaza who tested positive for COVID-19 came close to some 30 Palestinians but stressed they did not mix with the broader public. They were returning from Pakistan.
Salama Maroof, the head of the Hamas-run government media office, told journalists that two of the people who came close to the first two cases included Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas-controlled internal security forces in Gaza, and Mahmoud Abu Watfa, his deputy.
The Health Ministry did not clarify whether Abu Naim and Abu Watfa were among the seven who have now also tested positive.
Abdelnasser Soboh, the head of the World Health Organization’s sub-office in Gaza, downplayed concerns about the nine cases in Gaza.
“These cases are imported and not from inside [Gaza],” he told the Hamas-affiliated al-Resalah.
A total of 1568 people in Gaza were being held in more than 20 quarantine facilities, while 1205 were isolated in their homes, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.
Soboh, however, said in early March 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 told a press conference on Thursday 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.
Soboh said that the health institutions in Gaza carry a total of 2,500 beds and some 50-60 ventilators for adults.