The Gaza Strip has seen 69 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, Hamas health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra says. Gaza’s total number of active cases outside of quarantine centers now stands at 280.
Around 10% of tests are coming back positive, a dangerous sign for the future of the fight against COVID-19 in the coastal enclave. According to the World Health Organization, a positive return rate of less than 5% is a necessary benchmark for demonstrating that the pandemic is under control in a given country.
Hamas health officials have said that Gaza’s frail health system cannot handle more than 2,000 active cases. A Hamas-initiated lockdown that began last Tuesday is due to expire tomorrow but will likely be extended.
A spokesperson for the Hamas Interior Ministry says that many businesses in the Gaza Strip have had their licenses revoked after opening, and that earlier exceptions for some stores are being rescinded to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rising tensions between Hamas and Israel could also affect Gaza’s battle with coronavirus. In recent weeks, Gaza-based groups have launched hundreds of explosive balloons into Israeli territory, causing widespread fires in areas around the Strip.
In response, Israel has conducted nightly airstrikes and closed the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with Gaza to fuel. As a result, Gaza’s only power plant shut down two weeks ago. Much of Gaza — including hospitals — receives as little as four hours of electricity a day.
Four Gazans have died so far from the virus.
— Aaron Boxerman