Palestinian loss of land Photo: Wikipedia

The people of Gaza are already fighting for survival, in the present situation the Coronavirus will mean a death sentence for them

Coronavirus has now infected over 340,000 people in 177 countries around the world. The pandemic threatens every country on the planet, with even the richest nations in the world incapable of effectively dealing with it. The total number of cases in Palestine is 59, with Gaza confirming its first two cases of the virus last week. This has sparked fear and anxiety for people living in the besieged territory; the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Gaza could be a death sentence for its population.

Despite efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus, years of Israeli aggression has left Gaza with a healthcare system totally unable to cope with a pandemic. The strip receives an average of 4-6 hours of electricity a day, and is chronically short of medicine and medical equipment thanks to the 12-year Israeli blockade that has restricted the import of these essentials. Gaza only has 62 life-saving ventilators (19 of which are already in use) and not enough adequate quarantine facilities to deal with the virus.

Restaurants, cafes, markets and wedding halls in Gaza were closed last week, and Friday prayers in mosques suspended. Any Palestinians returning from abroad are either being quarantined or are self-isolating.  Though people have been ordered to only leave their homes to buy food, there is a high risk that the virus will spread very rapidly in the densely populated cities and refugee camps of Gaza, where 2 million people live in less than 400km2 of land. Israel have responded to the confirmed cases by closing its borders with Palestine (including the West Bank) completely.

Palestinians in Gaza are living in crisis even without the Coronavirus, and the almost inevitable outbreak of the virus is essentially another nail in the coffin from the Israeli state. It is absolutely crucial that the Israeli siege on Gaza comes to an immediate end, and the 2 million people trapped on the Gaza Strip are finally allowed access to reliable electricity and medical aid.

The coronavirus is a deeply political issue that has exacerbated the shortcomings of capitalism and neoliberalism. Years of cutting back on welfare and the privatisation of healthcare has left healthcare systems barely able to cope; thousands of people globally will die avoidable deaths. We are also at the mercy of governments reluctant to take the necessary steps to slow the spread. As with any natural disaster, war, or recession, it is the poorest people who will suffer the most. This is certainly the case in Gaza.