Gaza’s Health System Days from Being Overwhelmed by COVID-19

GAZA (Reuters) -
A Palestinian paramedic wearing a full protective suit, takes a nasal swab to test for Covid-19 from a man, in Gaza City, Sept. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave’s meager medical system by next week, public health advisers said on Sunday.

Gaza, where the dense and poor population of 2 million is vulnerable to contagions, has logged 14,000 coronavirus cases and 65 deaths, mostly since August.

Seventy-nine of Gaza’s 100 ventilators have been taken up by COVID-19 patients, said Abdelraouf Elmanama, a microbiologist who is part of the enclave’s pandemic task force.

“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,” he said, adding that the current 0.05% mortality rate among COVID-19 patients could rise.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have so far imposed one lockdown.

“We are not giving Hamas any ‘coronavirus discounts’,” Israeli cabinet minister Izhar Shay told Army Radio after the IDF retaliated earlier Sunday against Hamas military sites after a rocket was launched from Gaza against southern Israel. “We will continue responding as appropriate,” he said.

But Shay said Israel was enabling international humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, adding: “This is the level that we can preserve in the coronavirus context.” Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health lead in the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, cautioned, however, that “within a week, we will become unable to care for critical cases”.

The infection rate among those being tested was 21%, with a relative increase in carriers over the age of 60, he said.

“This is a dangerous indicator since most of (those over 60) may need to be hospitalized,” Soboh added.

Updated Sunday, November 22, 2020 at 1:55 pm .