Gaza runs out of coronavirus tests, Palestinian health officials say

Palestinians, wearing masks as a preventive measure against coronavirus, work in a bakery in Gaza City, March 22, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Gaza runs out of coronavirus tests, Palestinian health officials say

  • Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra: Testing at our central laboratory has stopped, after coronavirus test kits completely ran out
  • The impoverished coastal strip has for years been under a blockade led by neighboring Israel

GAZA: The Gaza Strip has no more coronavirus test kits, Palestinian health officials said on Wednesday, amid fears of disaster if the illness spreads in the blockaded, densely packed enclave.
“Testing at our central laboratory has stopped, after coronavirus test kits completely ran out,” Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said. The ministry is run by the enclave’s rulers, Hamas.
The impoverished coastal strip has for years been under a blockade led by neighboring Israel, which it says is needed to stop weapons and money reaching its enemy Hamas.
Gaza has reported 13 cases of coronavirus infection, all of whom are at quarantine facilities. But officials have voiced concern that a shortage of critical equipment and medical supplies could set off a rapid spread among the enclave’s two million people.
In a news briefing, Qidra said dozens of samples were awaiting testing, and that hundreds of people would likely have to remain in quarantine facilities as a result.
He appealed to international organizations to provide Gaza with testing kits as well as 100 ventilators and 140 beds for intensive care units.
Hamas has closed schools, mosques and wedding halls and banned large street gatherings to halt the contagion’s spread, but has not moved to impose a lockdown on Gaza’s 2 million residents, saying it was not yet necessary.
Israel, which tightly controls movement in and out of Gaza, last week linked any coronavirus aid it might offer Palestinians there to progress in its attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers lost during the 2014 war in the enclave.
Also last week, Norway, which chairs a major donor group to the Palestinians, pleaded for more funding for Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to help stave off a humanitarian disaster.
One death and 250 cases have been reported among Palestinians in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and where the Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule.


Adib presents government proposal to Aoun as Hezbollah pressure grows

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 46 min ago

Adib presents government proposal to Aoun as Hezbollah pressure grows

  • Economic experts said on Friday that the continuing debates about the formation of the government are a “waste of precious time,” which is a luxury Lebanon does not have

LEBANON: As Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib continues his efforts to form a new government, on Friday he presented to President Michel Aoun a proposal for “distributing the ministries to various sects before setting a final formula on who will be nominated to these ministries,” sources said. The two men will meet again on Saturday for further discussions.

Adib is facing sustained pressure from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, who have raised their demands to insist that all ministerial positions are filled by Shiites, and not only the key role of minister of finance.

This has jeopardized his efforts to form a “government that satisfies everybody,” based on a French initiative that calls for the appointment of a small team of independent specialists representing all religious sects, who are not members of the main political parties.

Government sources said: “Adib, during his meeting with representatives of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on Thursday evening, refused to accept from them a list of names of Shiites from which to choose a minister of finance.”

During his Friday sermon the following day, the Grand Jaafari Mufti Ahmad Qabalan said: “We insist on nominating our ministers and we refuse to accept that anyone else will do that for us, no matter who he is.”

Economic experts said on Friday that the continuing debates about the formation of the government are a “waste of precious time,” which is a luxury Lebanon does not have. They criticized the continued prioritization of political interests over the best interests of the country and warned that “it is a matter of life or death for the Lebanese people.”

They pointed out “thousands have lost their businesses and tens of thousands have lost their jobs, and 55 percent of the Lebanese people are living below the poverty line. There is a shortage of essential products, and the reserves of the Banque du Liban (the Lebanese Central Bank) have withered away.” Meanwhile there has been a brain drain of professionals and businessmen leaving the country, “which threatens to deprive Lebanon of one of its strongest and most important assets.”

Adib faced further obstacles from Hezbollah allies on Friday when Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, announced that he does not agree that the Prime Minister-designate should choose who represents his party in the government without consulting with him.

Meanwhile, Talal Arslan, leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, called on Adib to “show respect to parliamentary blocks.”

Others warned that the president cannot approve a list of ministers he does not know, and that giving a Shiite party the finance portfolio must not deny other sects the right to ministries that they claim.

“The French initiative is blocked due to the conflict between particular interests and regional and international calculations,” said Lebanese MP Bilal Abdallah. “The country cannot stand this any more and it might collapse if things continue the way they are.”

He added that he hopes Adib will continue his efforts to form a government and give the French initiative a chance.

Lebanese academic Dr. Hares Sleiman said: “The options of Hezbollah and Amal Movement are determined by their priorities: do they want to defend Iran’s quota … or do they want to have the livelihood of the Lebanese people as their priority, including their supporters and the Shiites of Lebanon?”

He added: “(Amal Movement leader and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih) Berri wants the Ministry of Finance at a time when there is a shortage of money, and the international community is demanding the dismissal of those who are corrupt and the implementation of reforms to save the Lebanese economy.

“So would Berri accept an independent government that satisfies the demands of protesters in the streets so that Lebanon would enjoy internal, Arab and international support? If he does that, he would be conspiring against Hezbollah and its allies in power. If he does not, then the caretaker government of Hassan Diab will stay, and the crisis and the sanctions will continue.”