The Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday it had identified the first case of the omicron variant of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.
The carrier is a Gaza resident who was infected within the coastal territory, ministry official Majdi Dhair told a news conference.
"We are headed for a difficult time and violent wave [of infection] with the entry of omicron into the Gaza Strip," Dhair said in a press briefing.
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According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, fewer than 290,000 Gazans got two shots of the coronavirus vaccine, but just slightly over 25,000 of the Strip's 2 million resident got a booster shot.
Health officials urged Gazans on Sunday to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and the Education Ministry said it will increase its efforts to have more high-school students inoculated in schools.
The Health Ministry said it was working to ensure the health system is prepared for the expected rise in hospitalizations. However, the ministry's Duheir told the press that the ongoing blockade of Gaza makes it difficult to bring it some badly needed equipment, like more ventilators.
The official figure for active COVID cases in Gaza stands at 1,581 as of Sunday morning, but limited access to testing means the real number may be much higher.
Gaza, with a population of 2.2 million people, has registered 189,837 COVID cases sand 1,691 deaths since the pandemic began.
In the West Bank, three cases of the omicron variant had been detected among Palestinians on December 16 and the number had since risen to 23 among the 3.1 million population, Palestinian health authorities said.