Conflicts & War

Destruction, displacement triggers Covid surge in Gaza Strip

By Saud Abu Ramadan

Gaza City, May 28 (EFE).- Countering the spread of Covid-19 was already an enormous challenge for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a blockade for 15 years, before Israel began an aerial bombardment of the coastal enclave on May 10.

The displacement of families and destruction of medical facilities during the Israeli attacks were a major cause of a 30% surge in coronavirus infections, according to Ahmad Jenaina, director of the preventive medicine department of the ministry of health in Gaza City.

“After the Israeli aerial aggression ended on May 21, combating the spread of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip has become harder and more difficult due to a greater lack of facilities and equipment,” says Jenaina.

Throughout the bloody aerial campaign on the Gaza Strip, Israeli fighter jets struck hundreds of targets including residential buildings, roads, and medical facilities. The Israeli airstrikes also killed 255 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to Gazan health ministry officials.

A new figure to gauge the outcome of the violence is the enclave’s Covid-19 infections, currently at 5,200 infected for every 100,000, according to UNRWA data, four times higher than India, the current epicenter of the pandemic.

More than 70,000 Palestinians were displaced by the destruction of homes and Israeli warnings to target residential areas, according to the UN, many of which sought refuge with relatives, overcrowding their homes.

Those without extended families had to find shelter in the classrooms of UN-run schools.

According to UNRWA officials, 52,000 Palestinians were sheltered in facilities run by the UN humanitarian agency, which also contributed to the spike in infections.

“They were sheltered inside overcrowded schools with no precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Jenaina.

During the 11 days of intensive Israeli airstrikes on the enclave — home to over two million Palestinians — people developing Covid-19 symptoms were too scared to leave their homes and go to clinics.

Israeli airstrikes destroyed 24 medical institutions across the enclave, according to a spokesman for the health ministry of Gaza.

He added that the al-Remal Medical Center, a vital building that housed the health ministry’s offices, the main Covid-19 testing laboratories, an outpatient clinic and other administrative offices, was severely damaged.

“Unfortunately, many patients who developed Covid-19 symptoms were afraid to leave their homes and come for a PCR test because they were afraid of being targeted by the Israeli fighter jets,” he said.

The Gaza health ministry has requested economic support from the international community, some $64.6 million to buy emergency supplies of medical equipment, consumables and intensive care devices. EFE


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