The healthcare system in the Gaza Strip is near collapse as a result of Israel’s stifling siege and the rise in coronavirus cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.
Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health co-ordinator in the WHO’s Gaza office, warned that “within a week, we will become unable to care for critical cases”.
Of Gaza’s 100 ventilators, 79 are already taken up by Covid-19 patients, said Abdelraouf Elmanama, a member of the enclave’s pandemic task force.
Some 14,000 people have become infected with Covid-19 in the Palestinian enclave and 65 have died so far – with most of the infections occurring after August.
“In 10 days, the health system will become unable to absorb such a hike in cases and there might be cases that will not find a place at intensive care units,” Elmanama warned.
The enclave is home to some two million people who live in close proximity and are susceptible to contagions. Israel’s 14-year-siege of the Strip has left its medical services in tatters and the enclave suffering an acute fuel shortage.
In response to the warnings, Israeli cabinet minister Izhar Shay told Army Radio: “We are not giving Hamas any ‘coronavirus discounts’… We will continue responding as appropriate.”
But another Israeli official told Reuters that, since the pandemic hit, Israel had allowed 60 ventilators to be brought into Gaza as well as nine PCR coronavirus testing devices that had led to a more than tenfold increase in the volume of tests.