A wave of coronavirus infections among residents returning to Gaza has more than doubled the number of cases in the Palestinian enclave in recent days, raising fears of a bigger outbreak.
The Gaza Strip had managed to limit the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to no more than 20, with its borders with both Israel and Egypt closed to prevent the spread of disease.
But in recent days, around 1,500 Palestinians who had been stuck in Egypt were allowed to return via the Rafah crossing, while smaller numbers were permitted to enter from Israel.
They were all placed in confinement, but 35 new cases have been confirmed among them, including 25 on Thursday, authorities announced, raising the total number to 55.
Health ministry official Yussef Abu al-Reesh said those infected had mingled with other returning residents, including in the quarantine centers.
Authorities were verifying whether any had met with people from inside Gaza before entering quarantine, he added.
In recent weeks, preventive measures in Gaza had been relaxed, with cafes and restaurants allowed to reopen.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior official with the Hamas terror group, which runs the enclave, told a press conference Thursday that authorities were considering imposing a curfew.
The border with Egypt would be re-sealed until at least the end of June, he added.
The United Nations has warned that a coronavirus outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given the high poverty rates and weak health system in the coastal strip.
The number of cases in Palestinian areas of the West Bank remains at 368, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry.