On Sunday evening, 6 December 2020, the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza reported that COVID-19 testing at the MoH Central Laboratory had come to a halt, as the stock of testing kits had been fully depleted. Dr. Ayman al-Halabi, Director of the Support Medical Services Department at the MoH in Gaza, told Al Mezan that no new samples would be taken from suspected cases on Monday as the last of the available kits at the Central Laboratory had been used on Sunday.
Prior to 6 December, the MoH Central Laboratory in Gaza typically conducted between 2,000 and 2,700 tests per day. However, in its latest COVID-19 update on Monday morning, the MoH reported that only 1,245 samples were analyzed on Sunday, 471 of which came back positive for COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Gaza to 25,592, including 149 deaths. Alarmingly, recent statistics show that approximately one third of samples collected have tested positive for the virus. Further, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 350 cases, bringing the rate of serious and critical cases to about 20 percent of those confirmed.
The persistent shortage of medical essentials exacerbates the health risks of the population in Gaza. As of 30 November 2020, 44 percent of medicines on the MoH essential drugs list were reported at ‘zero stock’ levels, meaning that the MoH Central Drug Store has less than one-month supply of these drugs. Similarly, 32 percent of items on the MoH essential medical disposables list are also at zero stock.
Al Mezan stresses that Israel’s illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which entails severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, has kept the health sector on the brink of collapse. The unsteady supply of medical equipment and testing kits has compounded the struggle of medical teams in Gaza, undermining their efforts to contain and track the spread of the coronavirus.
Al Mezan warns of a looming catastrophe in Gaza and calls on the international community to exert pressure on Israel, the occupying power, to lift the blockade and closure, and to ensure the steady supply of medical equipment and testing kits necessary to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.