March 9, 2020 / 2:35 PM / a month ago

Blockaded Gaza free of coronavirus, but stepping up precautions

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, March 9 (Reuters) - The Gaza Strip has remained free of the coronavirus, but authorities are taking precautions, closing schools after a state of emergency was declared last week.

Health officials have urged all returning travellers to go into home quarantine for 14 days and Gazans have been stockpiling sterilisers and other cleaning materials.

While some in Gaza advocate closing border crossings with Israel and Egypt entirely to stave off infection, others voiced concern about deepening economic hardship in the territory, where unemployment hovers around 50 percent.

“I don’t support closing the crossings. People have businesses they need to tend to,” said Shahima al-Sourani, 26, on going back into Gaza from the southern Rafah border crossing with Egypt, where 55 cases of coronavirus including one death have been reported.

Concern is also high in Gaza that if the coronavirus strikes, its hospitals, suffering from a chronic lack of equipment, will struggle to deal with the spread of the illness.

Reporting by Bassam Masoud and Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by Rami Ayyub, Jeffrey Heller and Ed Osmond

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