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UNRWA: 'The worst scenario is the spread of coronavirus in besieged Gaza'

March 30, 2020 at 4:23 pm

A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection works at a refugee camp as part of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic precautions, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 29, 2020 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

The Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, said on Sunday that the worst scenario is the spread of coronavirus in a fully besieged Gaza.

“We are very worried about the outbreak of the coronavirus because managing the crisis then would be very difficult,” Schmale told Sky News Arabic. He stressed the importance and necessity of lifting the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza since 2007. “We need equipment such as respirators, personal protection kit and more staff.”

The UNRWA official condemned as “illogical” the thinking that Gaza is somehow separate to the rest of the world. Everyone, he pointed out, has to take measures to lift the siege.

“For many of the people here, Gaza has not been liveable for a long time,” explained Schmale. “People do not have jobs, medicines or anything. They depend on UNRWA’s food packages.”

He concluded by pointing out that Gaza only has 60 hospital beds equipped with respirators; the estimated population in 2018 was just under 2 million. “I was told that 20 per cent of patients with coronavirus need hospital care and 5 per cent need to be in an ICU. Even if only 1,000 people in Gaza contracted coronavirus, we would still have a real problem.”

Read: $120 million needed to face coronavirus crisis as Palestinians warn of its economic impact