Gaza authorities clamp down again to stem rise in COVID-19 cases

A partial lockdown will begin this weekend in the Gaza Strip after COVID-19 infections spiked in the densely populated territory, Gaza's Interior Ministry declared on Thursday.

Mosques and most schools will be closed during the day although many businesses will be allowed to remain open until a nighttime curfew forces Gazans to stay at home. There will be a full closure at weekends. Ministry spokesman Eyad Al-Bozom told reporters they were also considering moving to a complete lockdown, if needed.

Virus cases have more than tripled in the past month to hover around 900 a day. The death toll has quadrupled in that time to 126. Some 23,000 total infections have been reported. Health organizations have warned the outbreak could easily spiral out of control and overtax the health system in the enclave, which is home to 2 million Palestinians, many living in poverty.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, imposed a lockdown in August after an initial outbreak. But those restrictions were eased, and authorities are now trying to contain a second wave.