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Central lab in Gaza Strip runs out of supplies to process COVID-19 tests

The central laboratory in the besieged Gaza Strip has run out of necessary supplies to process COVID-19 tests, the Palestinian health ministry says, as the densely-populated enclave faces a race against time to contain the fast-growing pandemic. 

The ministry on Thursday warned that the absence of such supplies would lead to a large backlog of pending tests amid a battle to curb further spread of the new coronavirus.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the health ministry, said that the unavailability of lab supplies to run COVID-19 tests posed a new challenge to the ministry in its efforts to combat the pandemic.

He stressed that the situation would definitely delay the necessary procedures for ending the isolation of hundreds of quarantined people who have already given samples for testing.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. The has affected 209 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far infected more than 1,532,440 people and killed over 89,720.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global pandemic. 

Official figures by Palestine’s health ministry shows that as of Thursday, 263 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and one individual has died so far. More than a dozen of the infected
people are in the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million people, and the rest are in the occupied West Bank.

Qudra warned of serious repercussions on the health situation in Gaza as the blockaded enclave has run out of many vital medical and lab needs, “including 44 percent of essential medicine, 31 percent of medical consumables, and 65 percent of lab materials”.

He appealed to the international community and relief organizations to supply Gaza with medical and lab needs, including 100 respirators and 140 intensive care beds.

The majority of population of Gaza lives in tightly packed refugee camps, where social distancing is hardly feasible and the new coronavirus can rampage the enclave if necessary safety measures are
not taken.