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the coronavirus crisis

In Gaza, rise in COVID-19 cases could soon overwhelm hospitals

In Gaza, one of the most crowded areas in the world, there has been a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and hospitals are at risk of soon becoming overwhelmed.

There have been more than 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 848 deaths in Gaza, and in the last week, the daily case rate has routinely surpassed 1,000. The death toll is also at its highest, with more than 20 deaths reported most days, The Associated Press reports. In the main COVID-19 treatment center in Gaza, oxygen supplies are very low, and at another hospital, there are so many coronavirus patients that three are crammed to a room.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 was slow to spread in Gaza due to border closures enforced by Egypt and Israel, AP says. Gaza is governed by Hamas, and after the first community spread case was reported in August, Hamas closed down the mosques, schools, and markets and imposed a nighttime curfew. By February, the infection rate plummeted, and the curfew and other restrictions were lifted, in an attempt to try to revive the economy that was already floundering pre-pandemic.

There are several reasons why there's a surge now happening in Gaza, home to two million people. It is densely populated, making it difficult to practice social distancing, and there are now new variants that are quicker to spread. Many people also don't properly wear their masks, AP says, and the markets and mosques are crowded due to Ramadan.

Gaza has received enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to fully inoculate 55,000 people, but because there is widespread skepticism about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to rare blood clots, there are thousands of doses available but no one willing to accept them. Read more about the situation in Gaza at The Associated Press.