Palestinians report first two cases of coronavirus in Gaza Strip

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at the main market in Gaza City on Thursday.
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at the main market in Gaza City on Thursday.
(Adel Hana / Associated Press)

The Palestinian Health Ministry announced the first two cases of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip early Sunday.

In a news conference, Yousef Abu Rish, a Health Ministry official, said the two confirmed coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip were in two citizens who returned from Pakistan on Thursday.

Abu Rish said both individuals had been in quarantine in a school in Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, since their return and did not enter public areas in the Gaza Strip. They have been transferred to a newly built, dedicated isolation ward in the Rafah field hospital.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, announced it was stopping prayer in mosques and closing restaurants, cafes and wedding halls in the strip.

The developments added to fears of a potential outbreak in the crowded enclave, which has an overstretched healthcare system after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and Palestinian political division.

The blockade has rendered Gaza off-limits to foreign tourists, and Israel and Egypt have shut their borders with the territory as part of measures aimed at containing the virus.


Palestinians returning home can still enter Gaza, but they are sent to quarantine centers.

Special correspondents Noga Tarnopolsky in Jerusalem and Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed to this report.