Gaza Strip Takes Its Toll to Combat Coronovirus Outbreak as Conflict

Effectively, they remain in lockdown for years.

The Gaza Strip’s 2 million Palestinian residents limit their movement to Israel in the north and Egypt in the south. Both have cited security concerns over leadership controlled by Hamas.

Nevertheless, the coronovirus broke through, and as of Friday, the Ministry of Health has reported 1,631 COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths. Among them, only 115 infections and one death were in quarantine facilities. The rest were in dense settlements in the blocked area.

According to the charity Oxfam, there may be an outbreak in a crowded, cramped area with only 97 intensive care unit beds and ventilators.

“We work under very stressful conditions,” Dr. Mohammad Asfour told NBC News earlier this month at a European hospital, where he is working to treat people with the virus.

A family sits in their home during a coronovirus lockdown in Gaza City’s Al-Karamah neighborhood on Septa 2.Fatima Shabair / Getty Images File

The temperature reached 90 F before she put her scrub, two layers of shoes, a blue surgical smoke, gloves and her white biohard suit over both the face mask and face shield. Medical staff must wear full protective equipment at all times when they are inside the hospital.

“You are not allowed to eat, drink and go to the bathroom. Also, your duty is to carry out your tasks [an] In an optimal manner in view of the acute shortage of medical supplies, mechanical ventilators and essential medicines, ”said Asfour, who was filmed for NBC News by his colleagues under the Ministry of Health Supervision.

As of 24 August, Gaza had no infection outside its quarantine centers for people traveling in the area. Strict measures and limited travel kept the virus under control.

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But now that three of Gaza’s five hospitals have been closed, COVID-19 patients are under increasing strain on an already struggling health care system.

However, according to the World Health Organization, essential services such as vaccination and maternal care started gradually from last week.

The outbreak of four members of the same family at a central Gaza refugee camp could be linked, a government spokesman told Reuters last month.

As matters began to unfold, Hamas security forces issued a full curfew, locking the entire 139-square-mile area. The outpost was set up and police vehicles patrolled the streets, using loudspeakers urging residents to abide by the curfew.

Lockdown restrictions have begun to be loosened in most areas, where the curfew has been lifted and people can move out between 7am and 8am, however, it remains in place in the Northern Governorate around the Israeli crossing .

Palestinian health workers spray disinfectants on vehicles entering the Magaji refugee camp on 1 September.Khalil Hamra / AP File

The impact has already taken its toll on parts of the community in Gaza, where the poverty rate is now 53 percent and more than 75 percent of households, according to the World Bank, are dependent on social support in one form or the other.

Adam Joseph Zorb, 26, told NBC News on September 5 that he was unable to drive his auto rickshaw, locally called Tuk-Tuk.

The vehicle was his “only source of livelihood”, adding that with his wife and three children, he was barely able to meet at his home in the town of Khan Younis.

The family continues to subsist on bread, potatoes and tea, with Jorayb’s 62-year-old mother, Fayazza, cooking in a wood fire in her open-air kitchen, which is covered only by a tarp.

“There is no gas, no electricity or water,” he said. “I bring them food from the garbage … I distribute pieces of bread for the children until it is enough for them.”

“Nobody cares about our dire circumstances,” he said.

Lavage Jabari, Vajji Samad and Reuters has contributed.