The Fight Against COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip (Updated to June 7, 2020)

Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).

Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).

Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).

Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).

Testing kits delivered to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O.'s regional office, June 7, 2020).

Testing kits delivered to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O.'s regional office, June 7, 2020).

The director of the W.H.O.'s regional office in Gaza delivers the machines (W.H.O. regional office, June 4, 2020).

The director of the W.H.O.'s regional office in Gaza delivers the machines (W.H.O. regional office, June 4, 2020).

Delivering the equipment to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. regional office, June 2, 2020).

Delivering the equipment to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. regional office, June 2, 2020).

Delivering the equipment to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. regional office, June 2, 2020).

Delivering the equipment to the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the W.H.O. regional office, June 2, 2020).

 Overview
  • On June 6, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Gaza Strip stood at 70, of which 28 were active (compared with 42 last week). The active cases are being housed in the quarantine hospital at the Rafah Crossing. Forty-one have recovered: 14 were discharged to their homes and 27 are still in the quarantine center at the Rafah Crossing. So far Hamas’ handling of the disease has kept it under control and the extent of the infection is trending downward.
  • The Gaza Strip is preparing for the relaxation of additional restrictions while continuing to enforce guidelines and preventive measures. In the meantime, preparations are being made to receive more Gazans, who will return from Egypt through the Rafah Crossing. That is being done while taking into account that Gazans returning from Egypt could pose a danger, since they are liable to be carrying the disease and could spread it inside the Gaza Strip. Therefore, their return will be strictly monitored and they will all stay in the quarantine centers to ensure that the disease does not spread inside Gaza.
  • The ministry of health’s spokesman continues to complain of a serious shortage of medical equipment. This past week a few shipments of COVID-19 testing kits arrived in the Gaza Strip from foreign institutions. The spokesman continues to blame Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the difficulties plaguing the public health system in the Gaza Strip.
The Extent of the Infection

The ministry of health in the Gaza Strip announced that there are currently 70 cases of COVID-19, 28 of them active (as of June 6, 2020). All the cases are being treated in the quarantine hospital at the Rafah Crossing, after a number of new cases were detected among quarantined Gazans. So far 41 patients recovered, of whom 14 were discharged to their home, and 27 are still in the quarantine center at the Rafah Crossing. One woman has died. So far 11,025 tests have been conducted, 10,955 with negative results (Dunia al-Watan, report from the ministry of health, updated to June 6, 2020).

Quarantine Centers in Gaza
  • There are currently 601 people isolated in ten quarantine centers in the Gaza Strip. The quarantine centers in Beit Hanoun and Rafah were evacuated (Dunia al-Watan, June 6, 2020). Once the period of quarantine ends the centers will be disinfected and prepared to receive other groups of Gazans returning from Egypt. That will happen when the Rafah Crossing reopens at the beginning of July 2020 (Filastin al-Yawm, June 6, 2020).
  • Salama Maarouf, chairman of the administrative information bureau in the Gaza Strip, said that alongside the relaxation of restrictions inside Gaza, the preventive measures at its entrances and in the quarantine centers will be made more strict to prevent mistakes that might spread coronavirus inside the Strip. He said the decision to quarantine returning Gazans has successfully prevented the internal spread of the virus. He said the crossings would remain closed until July 1, 2020. The reopening of the Rafah Crossing will depend on an evaluation of the results of implementing preventive measures (al-Ra’i news agency, June 3, 2020).
  • Ministry of health spokesman Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra expressed concern about the newly detected infections which followed the entrance of Gazans returning from Egypt. He said that the extensive spread of the virus in Egypt increased the pressure on the Gaza Strip of Palestinians who had been stuck at the crossing. He added that the 51 recently-detected cases were in a group of Gazans who had just returned from Egypt (Bawabat al-Hadaf, June 6, 2020).
Relaxing Restrictions
  • Salama Maarouf, chairman of the administrative information bureau in the Gaza Strip, and Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in Gaza, said there was a general trend towards a gradual, monitored return to activity of the sectors that had been hit by the pandemic. They said the return would be conducted in accordance with guidelines determined by the ministry of health and with the supervision of the relevant authorities. Maarouf said the trend towards a gradual return to activity was consistent with the stability of the situation in Gaza and the fact that not even one case of a COVID-19 infection had been reported inside the Strip, only in the quarantine centers. He added that they were not yet out of danger, and stressed the need to follow the guidelines and preventive measures (al-Ra’i news agency, June 2, 2020).
Opening reception venues
  • On June 3, 2020, the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip announced that after a meeting with the restaurant, hotel and reception venue owners, it had been decided that the reception venues would reopen on June 5, 2020. The ministry of health insisted on a number of conditions, including reducing the number of guests, social distancing, the wearing of masks, good ventilation, the disinfecting of the venues and their contents, a ban on the entrance of children and people older than 60, and closing the children’s play rooms next to the venues (al-Ra’i news agency, June 3, 2020). Supervisors of the ministries of the interior, tourism and health will oversee the implementation of the conditions (website of the ministry of the interior in Gaza, June 3, 2020).
Preparing to reopen reception venues in Gaza (Right: QudsN Twitter account, June 3, 2020; left: Facebook page of journalist Hani al-Sha'ar, June 3, 2020).    Preparing to reopen reception venues in Gaza (Right: QudsN Twitter account, June 3, 2020; left: Facebook page of journalist Hani al-Sha'ar, June 3, 2020).
Preparing to reopen reception venues in Gaza (Right: QudsN Twitter account, June 3, 2020; left: Facebook page of journalist Hani al-Sha’ar, June 3, 2020).
Opening the mosques
  • On June 3, 2020, the mosques in the Gaza Strip reopened. Abd al-Hadi al-Agha, deputy minister of Muslim endowments in Gaza, called for preventive measures to be adhered to, including bringing a prayer rug from home, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing while entering and leaving the mosque, refraining from shaking hands, and not bringing children (al-Ra’i news agency, June 1, 2020). Pictures from Gaza show that not all the mosques took the necessary precautions and many worshippers were photographed not wearing masks.
Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).    Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks (Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).
Prayers in the mosques; the worshippers are not wearing masks
(Twitter account of al-Quds, June 3, 2020).

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative disinfects a mosque in the Gaza Strip in preparation for its opening (Paltoday Twitter account, June 3, 2020).
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative disinfects a mosque in the Gaza Strip in preparation for its opening (Paltoday Twitter account, June 3, 2020).

Additional restrictions relaxed
  • The Palestinian Football [soccer] Association announced that games in the Gaza Strip would be renewed after a two-month hiatus. The first quarter-final games will be played on June 19 and 20, 2020 without an audience (sanad news, May 28, 2020).
  • The tourism and vacation sector will reopen in accordance with ministry of health guidelines (Dunia al-Watan, June 3, 2020). Daycare centers will reopen, as will social work and vocational training centers (al-Aqsa, June 2, 2020).
Renewal of studies in the ministry of labor's vocational training centers (website of the ministry of labor in Gaza, June 2, 2020).    Renewal of studies in the ministry of labor's vocational training centers (website of the ministry of labor in Gaza, June 2, 2020).
Right: Renewal of studies in the ministry of labor’s vocational training centers (website of the ministry of labor in Gaza, June 2, 2020). Left: Disinfecting vocational training centers in preparation for their reopening (Facebook page of the ministry of social development in Gaza, June 3, 2020).
Support for the Gaza Strip
  • Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, continues complaining that the continuation of the [so-called] “Israeli siege” of the Gaza Strip and the non-delivery of the Gaza Strip’s share of the medical equipment received by the PA put the public health services in danger when it comes to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. He claimed the ministry of health’s program for dealing with the scenarios and stages of a COVID-19 outbreak necessitate the sum of $59 million. The money is needed to cover the ministry’s requirements for drugs, disposable medical equipment, laboratory equipment and chemicals, ICU beds, ventilators, training teams and campaigns to increase social awareness. He said that so far only $1.8 million had been transferred by supporting institutions (al-Ra’i news agency, June 2 and 4, 2020).
  • During the week a number of deliveries of medical equipment arrived in the Gaza Strip:
    • The W.H.O. delivered seven kits of laboratory testing supplies for detecting coronavirus. They will make it possible to test more than 600 Gazans (Facebook page of the W.H.O.’s regional office, June 7, 2020).
    • On June 4, 2020, the ministry of health in Gaza received two PCR machines, a present from Turkey, and delivered to the Gaza Strip from Ramallah with the help of the W.H.O. (al-Ra’i news agency, June 4, 2020; Facebook page of the W.H.O.’s regional office in, June 4, 2020).
    • On June 2, 2020, the W.H.O. delivered to the ministry of health’s central laboratory in Gaza City two pallets of laboratory equipment, including 8,000 swabs for testing for COVID-19 infection (Facebook page of the W.H.O. regional office, June 2, 2020).
  • The department for developing human resources in the ministry of health in Gaza, in collaboration with Médecins du monde (MdM), finished a training program financed by the W.H.O. for 250 medical personnel to give them practice in treating COVID-19 patients. A senior member of the department said the participants were trained at centers for the detection of respiratory ailments (held in schools). Dr. Mahmoud al-Hanawi, MdM representative, said following the training, drills were held in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip. Preparations were also made to hold more drills in the coming days in the central Gaza Strip, Khan Yunis and Rafah (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Gaza, June 1, 2020).