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Palestinians urges intl. pressure on Israel to lift Gaza siege amid coronavirus outbreak

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian volunteers wearing protective clothes and masks disinfect a street as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, in the border town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has called on the international community to put pressure on the Israel regime to lift its ongoing land, air, and sea blockade, so that the impoverished coastal sliver can cope with cases of coronavirus infection.

“We raise our voice and ask the whole world to help lift the siege on Gaza to enable it to face the coronavirus pandemic,” Yousef Abu al-Rish, a health ministry official in Gaza, announced in a statement late on Sunday.

He reassured the Gazans that only two cases of the disease were reported, emphasizing that medical teams are fully prepared to deal with the cases.

Palestinian officials have announced the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Abu al-Rish said late on Saturday that the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza's Rafah border with neighboring Egypt on Thursday.

The pair exhibited symptoms of the illness, which include dry cough and high fever, he told a news conference.

The senior Palestinian health official added that the two were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah.

Abu al-Rish urged Gaza's nearly two million residents to take precautionary measures and to practice social distancing by staying home in a bid to halt the potential spread of the virus. 

The United Nations has warned against the frightening consequences of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip in the wake of 13 years of Israeli-imposed blockade on the territory.

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for occupied Palestinian territory, stated that the COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza can be terrible due to the long-term blockade, overpopulation, and limited health facilities there.

McGoldrick said the people will get stuck in the region in case of an epidemic, resulting in spread of the virus.

The top UN health official pointed to the weak and insufficient health care system in the Gaza Strip regarding financial sources and equipment, saying they are in contact with the Palestinian administration and the World Health Organization over the improvement of the health system.

He said that they are working with international donors on a project with a $7 million budget to meet Gaza’s urgent need for humanitarian aid for the next two months.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

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