The Electronic Intifada / April 23, 2021
COVID-19 cases in Gaza have skyrocketed in recent weeks.
In March, active coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip more than tripled.
During that month, Gaza’s health authorities confirmed the first cases of the more transmissible B117 variant first discovered in the UK, which has caused major surges in many countries.
UN monitoring group OCHA has noted a significant increase in patients being admitted to intensive care units and requiring ventilation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in recent weeks.
Gaza’s health sector has been devastated over the course of the Israeli blockade, assisted by Egypt, that is now entering its 14th year, and successive Israeli military assaults.
Human rights groups have warned that the pandemic would stretch Gaza’s medical system beyond capacity.
There is no doubt that it took a further hit with the coronavirus over the last year.
Health authorities in the Gaza Strip have reported a shortage in oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients, especially during surges of cases.
“The most important therapy for COVID-19 patients, in addition to medicines, is oxygen,” the head of the Palestine-Turkey Friendship Hospital in Gaza City, Marwan al-Hams, told The Electronic Intifada.
While certain hospitals have small oxygen production plants, they do not have the capacity to produce the oxygen supplies that coronavirus patients need when cases are high.
“There’s a deficit of about 50 to 60 percent for oxygen-generating plants,” Khalid Abu Jayyab, head of maintenance at the same hospital, told The Electronic Intifada during a coronavirus surge earlier this year.
“We are suffering a severe shortage during the pandemic,” he added. “The Israeli occupation and siege bears full responsibility.”
The European Hospital near Khan Younis in southern Gaza is the main facility where coronavirus patients are being treated.
It is also facing shortages of medical oxygen.
“We need new sources of oxygen, whether it’s liquid oxygen or new oxygen generators,” Abu Jayyab added.
Mahmoud Shalabi of the health charity Medical Aid for Palestinians said in November that Gaza’s health ministry “currently only has a capacity of 1,300 liters of oxygen per minute while they are in need of 3,000.”
Of the nearly 95,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip since March 2020, almost 19,000 are currently active.
Of more than 2,500 Palestinians who have died from the disease, more than 800 have been in Gaza.