Gaza health officials: Soon we won't be able to treat more corona cases

Gaza's Health Ministry reported a record high of 406 COVID-19 cases after conducting 2,380 lab tests over the past 24 hours.

A WOMAN shows a $100 bill she received as aid from Qatar, during a lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak in Gaza City in September.  (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)
A WOMAN shows a $100 bill she received as aid from Qatar, during a lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak in Gaza City in September.
With the onset of winter, the Palestinian enclave in the Gaza Strip is witnessing an unprecedented rise in cases of the coronavirus, the highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic, leaving authorities with very few options amid serious concerns that it threatens the sustainability of the health care system.
Gaza's Health Ministry on Sunday reported a record high of 406 COVID-19 cases, after conducting 2,380 laboratory tests during the past 24 hours.
Yousuf Alaqqad, head of the European Gaza Hospital, which is designated to receive moderate and critical cases of patients with the coronavirus, said on Saturday that the hospital could announce at any moment its inability to absorb new cases of the coronavirus, since the hospital and a school used as a quarantine center are both full.
“The situation is very complicated and the hospital is almost completely full, while the school adjacent to the hospital has 150 infected people and has room for about 25 new cases only,” Alaqqad said.
The serious cases are made up of various age groups, including the young, who were seen as less vulnerable to infection.
Dr. Mohammad Abu Rayya, a Gaza-based epidemiologist and health consultant, told The Media Line that, for many reasons, anyone can be infected with COVID-19, regardless of their age or medical history.
“Due to self-replication, COVID-19 has the ability to adapt and hit anyone, thus no one is immune,” he said. “Moreover, the virus is using two novel techniques to survive: First, its ability to hide where the patient doesn’t exhibit symptoms. Then, its significantly rapid spread depletes society, especially if there are no adequate means and well-equipped medical staffs to deal with the virus.”
“Every patient in the ICU needs 20 liters of oxygen per minute which is catastrophic given the fact that there are no oxygen-generating stations in the entire Strip, not a single one!” Abu Rayya said.
Majdi Dhair, head of the preventative medicine department in Gaza's Health Ministry, described the situation of the health sector as being critical.
“In less than two weeks, the bed occupancy rate in hospitals allocated to receive COVID-19 patients jumped from 10% to 50%, which is extremely alarming,” Dhair told The Media Line.
“There is too much pressure on the [central] laboratory and we are running out of PCR tests. However, we are doing our best and will continue to do so to contain the outbreak even if this means going back to a full lockdown in the Strip,” he added.
The Health Ministry already has started to apply mandatory self-quarantine for moderate and stable infected cases in order to leave room for those who are in more critical condition, according to Dhair.
“We must set priorities at least until we slow down the accelerated pace of the pandemic's outbreak,” he said.
Authorities in Gaza have tightened up measures to control the increasing pace of the outbreak and have imposed severe penalties for those who violate the rules.
Iyad Albozom, spokesman for Gaza's Interior and National Security Ministry, said Sunday that the ministry “confirms the decision to close all establishments, facilities and shops, as of Sunday at 5 pm. and until further notice, with the continuation of evening curfew, starting at 8 pm.”
For residents of Gaza, the pandemic is exacerbating the already precarious economic situation affecting the strip’s major sectors, including the private sector.
Logmah restaurant in Gaza City was one of the many businesses that suspended its work due to the negative influence of the lockdown measures.
“In light of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, and in order to preserve your health, we decided to close the restaurant until life returns to normal,” the restaurant management posted on its Facebook page.
“We already suffered great losses even before the latest lockdown measures,” Mohammed Almassri, Logmah’s manager, told The Media Line.
“We hoped that things would get better and we refused to lay off more than 25 workers who basically depend on that source of income but we also have bills and rent to pay so we could no longer hold on,” he added.
Almassri said he expects that more restaurants and businesses will stop operating in the coming weeks if the lockdown measures remain the same.
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