Gaza reports 1st virus-related death amid fears of outbreak

Socially distanced Friday prayers are held in Gaza amid concern about the spread of COVID-19. (REUTERS)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Gaza reports 1st virus-related death amid fears of outbreak

  • The Gaza Strip's dense population and fragile medical infrastructure makes it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic

GAZA CITY: The crowded Gaza Strip recorded its first death from the coronavirus on Saturday, officials said, amid fears an outbreak could paralyze the territory’s already overstretched health care system.
The Palestinian health ministry said the deceased was a 77-year-old woman who had underlying health problems and had been placed at a special field hospital near the Rafah border crossing point upon arriving from Egypt.
Gaza’s authorities, led by the militant group Hamas, reported 35 confirmed new cases this week, bringing the total to 55. All of the infected have been in designated quarantine and isolation facilities hosting returnees from abroad. There were no reports of community transmission of the virus.
Gaza’s health care system is fraying under the weight of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, internal Palestinian division and repeated wars and skirmishes between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.
Home to 2 million people, the Gaza Strip has only a little over 60 ventilators and a chronic shortage of medication.
Since mid-March, Hamas has enforced mandatory quarantining at hotels, clinics and schools for all residents returning via Israel and Egypt. With the recent spike of cases, Hamas said it’s closing Gaza’s borders for all arrivals until the end of June.
But on Friday, mosques were reopened for noon prayers across the Gaza Strip, with worshippers bringing their own prayer rugs, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and receiving hand sanitizer. Authorities say the partial reopening of the mosques after nearly two months of closure came after relative success at keeping the virus at bay and preventing an outbreak.
Schools and wedding halls remained closed in Gaza. Hamas’ interior ministry said public and amusement parks are not allowed to open during Eid Al-Fitr, a major holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, that starts Sunday.


Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

Updated 32 min 25 sec ago

Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

  • This is the sixth extension since they were first implemented
  • More beneficiaries were included on the list to receive COVID-19 aid

DUBAI: The Lebanese government has extended its ‘general mobilization against coronavirus’ for another four weeks.
The extension, the sixth since it was first adopted on March 15, was based on recommendations from Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council.
“The measures are still urgent to avert any second wave whose consequences will be difficult to treat,” the country’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad said.
Lebanon’s government is still committed to the five-stage plan of reopening and security forces will help oversee violations of measures, he added.
Authorities have started the second wave of financial aid distribution to those negatively impacted by COVID-19, Prime Minister Hassan Diab meanwhile said.
The government has included more beneficiaries ‘n line with field studies carried out by the Lebanese Army in direct cooperation with the Interior Ministry, municipalities and mokhtars,’ Abdul-Samad said.
Authorities will allow protests if people wear masks, avoid blocking roads, do not vandalize public or private properties, refrain from clashing with security forces and non-participating civilians, she added.
“We are with the right to protest but that right can transform into chaos if there is a return to blocking roads, vandalizing public and private property … I don’t think that any Lebanese person accepts these practices, which don’t resemble democratic expression,” Abdul-Samad said.