Authorities in Gaza on Saturday reported the Palestinian enclave's first novel coronavirus fatality, after a sharp rise in confirmed infections in recent days.
“Fadila Muhammad Abu Raida, 77, from the Khan Younes governorate, died in isolation in hospital at the Rafah Crossing due to her infection with coronavirus,” the health ministry in Gaza said.
A wave of coronavirus infections among residents returning to Gaza has more than doubled the number of cases in the strip in recent days, raising fears of a bigger outbreak.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
The impoverished enclave had managed to limit the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to no more than 20, with its borders with both Israel and Egypt closed to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease.
But in recent days, around 1,500 Palestinians who had been stuck in Egypt were allowed to return via the Rafah crossing, while smaller numbers were permitted to enter from Israel.
They were all placed in confinement, but 35 new cases have been confirmed among them, including 25 on Thursday, authorities announced, raising the total number to 55.
Health ministry official Yussef Abu al-Reesh said on Thursday that those infected had mingled with other returning residents, including in the quarantine centres.
Authorities were verifying whether any had met with people from inside Gaza before entering quarantine, he added.
In recent weeks, preventive measures in the enclave had been relaxed, with cafes and restaurants allowed to reopen.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior official with Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the enclave, told a press conference on Thursday authorities were considering imposing a curfew.
The border with Egypt would be re-sealed until at least the end of June, he added.
The United Nations has warned that a coronavirus outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given the high poverty rates and weak health system in the coastal strip under Israeli blockade since 2007.
Palestine health minister in coughing fit during presser over coronavirus threat
Pope Francis warns against ‘unfair’ solutions to end Israel-Palestine conflict
A brief history of previous Palestine peace deals – and their failure