Gaza Health Official: 'We Don't Have the Ability' to Deal With Omicron Wave

The Gaza Health Ministry urges the international community to press Israel to let more medical equipment in

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Palestinians wait to be tested for the coronavirus Gaza City, last month.
Palestinians wait to be tested for the coronavirus Gaza City, last month.Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The Gazan Health Ministry warned this week that the omicron variant has spread rapidly through the Gaza Strip since the first cases were discovered.

However, it could not say how many cases there were.

In Ramallah, a spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry said there have been 291 new omicron cases in the West Bank and Gaza combined so far this week, up from 49 last week. Most of these cases are in the West Bank.

Dr. Majdi Dahir, the Gazan Health Ministry official in charge of public health, said several cases have been diagnosed in the Strip, and they weren’t among returning travelers. This shows that omicron is already spreading in Gaza, and there are presumably cases the ministry doesn’t know about.

“Our fear is that we’re facing a rapid spread of the disease that will also be very violent and increase the number of patients needing urgent medical care,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to deal with this.”

On Sunday, he urged the international community to pressure Israel to let more medical equipment into Gaza, including ventilators and oxygen.

According to Gazan Health Ministry data released Monday evening, 98 coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the previous 24 hours out of 1,465 tests conducted. This raises the number of active cases to 1,237, including 40 seriously ill patients.

Since the pandemic began, 1,725 people have died of the virus in Gaza.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 103 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the West Bank, including 20 on ventilators. Over the past 24 hours, 294 new cases were diagnosed out of 5,918 people tested, it said.

So far, the PA hasn’t imposed any coronavirus restrictions, since that would hurt the economy. But Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Jericho on Monday that the government needs to take steps to encourage vaccination and prevent large gatherings.

So far, almost 2.37 million West Bank residents – more than 85 percent of the total population – have gotten at least one dose. In Gaza, the number is 881,000 out of roughly 2 million residents.

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