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April 13, 2020 7:38 am
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Gaza Resumes Coronavirus Testing Amid Shortages

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Hamas members wear protective gear as a precaution against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, April 13, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Coronavirus testing has resumed in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after Israel allowed five testing kits purchased by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the territory, a Gaza Health Ministry spokesman said on Monday.

But the spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra, said the kits would be of “limited immediate help” because they could be used to test only about 500 people in the coastal enclave with a population of two million.

“We began testing immediately after receiving the kits late (Sunday) night,” Qidra said. “We need to carry out these tests all the time and therefore, we are in need of thousands of testing kits.”

On April 8, health officials in Gaza said they had run out of testing kits and voiced concern that a shortage of medical supplies could lead to the rapid spread of infection.

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Gaza has 13 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, all in quarantine.

Col. Sharon Biton of COGAT — an Israeli Defense Ministry office that liaises with the Palestinians — said it was cooperating with “representatives of the international community” to maintain public health in Gaza.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said that in addition to the testing kits, Israel has allowed a PCR machine into the territory. The equipment analyses testing samples to determine whether they contain the genetic fingerprint of the coronavirus.

The machine was donated by a US-based charity, Qidra said.

“During the next week we aspire to be able to buy a good quantity of testing kits to bring into Gaza,” said Abdelnaser Soboh, director of the World Health Organization’s sub-office in the territory.

Qidra said that on Monday, hundreds of Palestinians stranded outside Gaza would begin arriving home and would require tests. Upon arrival, they would be sent to quarantine facilities in the southern Gaza Strip for three weeks.

Hamas has closed schools, mosques and wedding halls and banned large street gatherings to try to stem contagion. It has not moved to impose a lockdown, saying the measure was not yet necessary.

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