Officials have voiced concern that a shortage of critical equipment and medical supplies could set off a rapid spread amongst the enclave's two million people.

A Palestinian policeman stands guard as a woman, wearing a mask as a precaution against the the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), waits with other people outside a bank to withdraw cash, in Gaza City March 29, 2020.
A Palestinian policeman stands guard as a woman, wearing a mask as a precaution against the the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), waits with other people outside a bank to withdraw cash, in Gaza City March 29, 2020. (Reuters)

The Gaza Strip has no more coronavirus test kits, Palestinian health officials said on Wednesday, amid fears of disaster if the illness spreads in the blockaded, densely packed enclave.

"Testing at our central laboratory has stopped, after coronavirus test kits completely ran out," Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Qidra said. 

The impoverished coastal strip has for years been under a blockade imposed by Israel.

Gaza has reported 13 cases of coronavirus infection, all of whom are at quarantine facilities. But officials have voiced concern that a shortage of critical equipment and medical supplies could set off a rapid spread amongst the enclave's two million people.

In a news briefing, Qidra said dozens of samples were awaiting testing, and that hundreds of people would likely have to remain in quarantine facilities as a result.

He appealed to international organisations to provide Gaza with testing kits as well as 100 ventilators and 140 beds for intensive care units.

Gaza has closed schools, mosques and wedding halls and banned large street gatherings to halt the contagion's spread, but has not moved to impose a lockdown on its 2 million residents, saying it was not yet necessary.

Israel, which tightly controls movement in and out of Gaza, last week linked any coronavirus aid it might offer Palestinians there to progress in its attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers lost during the 2014 war in the enclave.

Also last week, Norway, which chairs a major donor group to the Palestinians, pleaded for more funding for Gaza and the Israeli-Occupied West Bank to help stave off a humanitarian disaster.

One death and 250 cases have been reported amongst Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank.

Source: Reuters