Health officials are bracing for devastating effects from COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip, warning that a lack of local resources and political tension could create a crisis mirroring the uncontrollable infectious spread of the coronavirus on cruise ships — in one of the most densely populated plots of land in the world.
Dr. Ghada Al Jadba, the chief of the health program for UNRWA, the UN’s lead Palestinian welfare agency, in the Gaza Strip, said there are currently over 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in territory, including 10 in the Gaza Strip. She said in a press briefing Tuesday that the Gaza Strip public health sector is not equipped to handle a major spread of the virus.
The densely populated Gaza Strip is home to nearly 2 million people, but only has 60 ventilators available for those in critical condition.
“The situation in Gaza is fragile, it’s deteriorated, so it would be very difficult to contain a widespread outbreak,” she said.
Health officials are projecting the situation in Gaza will be reminiscent of the spread of the virus on the Japanese Diamond cruise ship, which left 700 of those on board infected, eight dead and thousands of passengers trapped in their rooms for days. Based on this projection, Dr. Jadba said this could mean 85,000 could be infected with the virus in Gaza, 6% of whom would likely be in critical condition.
If thousands develop severe symptoms due to the virus, 60 ventilators will not even scratch the surface of the need, Dr.. Jadba said.
The World Health Organization supplied 1,000 tests for administration in the Gaza Strip, 750 of which have already been used.
UNRWA officials say they are working to provide food delivery to 1 million people in Gaza who face poverty for the coming weeks. The organization is also providing emergency services and screenings to both refugees in congested camps and Gaza residents who need medical assistance.
The Palestinian enclave is home to eight refugee camps where residents live in extremely crowded conditions, only accentuating fears of what will happen if the pandemic breaks out.
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