As the COVID-19 pandemic rivets our attention, imagine how 1.8 million Palestinians feel, living in Gaza, densely populated and mostly cut off from the outside world. With our freedom and security under siege by pandemic, we can begin to appreciate life there. Palestinians in Gaza are used to such confinement and danger, living under Israeli-Egyptian military siege since 2007. The USA’s $5 billion annual contribution of weapons, military equipment and technology helps maintain it.
On March 22nd, the first two COVID-19 cases were announced in Gaza. They are two Palestinian men, aged 30 and 40, returning from Pakistan, now quarantined in Rafah on the Egyptian border. As COVID-19 spread in neighboring Egypt and Israel, the Hamas-led government began quarantine of travelers into Gaza. Given the limited capacity of Gaza’s healthcare system due to the blockade and three Israeli offensives over the past 12 years, an outbreak would be catastrophic. For example, Gaza has fewer than 200 test kits and about 20 available ventilators.