As the total number of coronavirus cases rises in the state, the UN special coordinator warns about the potential medical and socioeconomic consequences of the spread.
Sarajevo – UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov voiced his concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine, predicting both a health and an economic disaster if the trend continues.
Arguing that all parties should take the crisis more seriously, Mladenov urged Israel to do more to help the Palestinian people.
He stated that the most vulnerable communities are residing in the Gaza Strip and that the UN and Israel should work proactively to stop further infections.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine reached 272 as of April 13. Health authorities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank said the majority of cases are individuals who commute to Israel for work.
Testing for the novel coronavirus has also been an issue in the Palestinian territories, with doctors working in Gaza underlining the shortage of testing kits and medical supplies. Recently, Israel allowed only five testing kits from the World Health Organization (WHO) into the territory.
Gaza’s health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra argued that five testing kits are not nearly enough to adequately serve a population of approximately two million people. Al-Qidra also called attention to the potential threat of COVID-19 in overcrowded Palestinian refugee camps.
Turkey has recently agreed to donate medical aid to Palestinians, including face masks, gloves, and protective clothing. The Turkish government expects that Israel will allow the transport and dispatch of these supplies without imposing obstacles. The EU has also granted around €71 million in aid to Palestine in order to fight the coronavirus.
Palestinian authorities are still worried about the economic crisis the territories may face due to the virus outbreak, especially since Palestine has limited control over its economy. The head of Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege predicted that Palestine’s tourism and trade sector will take the hardest hit and that the state’s GDP will shrink significantly.
Mladenov has emphasized that Palestinian authorities should still prioritize strict social distancing measures and the closing of all non-essential businesses regardless of economic consequences.
Tough measures limiting movement remain in effect. Schools, mosques, and wedding halls are closed, while large public gatherings are banned. Stranded Palestinians outside of Gaza are able to return, but will remain in quarantine facilities for three weeks.