Gaza imposes tighter virus restrictions, extends curfew

GAZA CITY (AFP) – New measures to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Gaza Strip were announced on Thursday by the Interior Ministry of Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave.

Mosques, schools, universities and kindergartens will be closed from today in the Gaza Strip, excluding high schools and nurseries, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

A night-time curfew was also set to start from today, lasting from 6pm to 8am, while a full lockdown will be imposed on Fridays and Saturdays from December 11 through to the end of the month.

Shops and other premises must close by 6pm and people must be home by 6.30pm, compared to 8pm under the previous curfew rules.

Medical and political sources warned last week of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Gaza Strip, saying the situation was “out of control”.

The enclave, a small, densely populated territory with two million inhabitants under an Israeli blockade, closed its borders early in the pandemic and only allowed a limited number of people to enter, requiring them to isolate for three weeks in quarantine centres.

Up until mid-August, authorities in Gaza – which is run by extremist movement Hamas – had only recorded around 100 COVID-19 cases.

But in the past two weeks, containment of the virus has deteriorated in Gaza, with hundreds of new infections announced per day, resulting in a total of 23,023 cases and 122 deaths.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is among those who have recently been infected by the virus, the movement said on Tuesday.

A Palestinian woman walks to an aid centre in Gaza City. PHOTO: AFP