For Us in the West, the Lockdown Is Meant to Save Lives. In Gaza It Will Kill Many

When people started to share the Facebook post “Dear world: How is the lockdown? – Gaza,” I felt uncomfortable. Though the posters sought to generate empathy for the 2 million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, the attempt to compare the closure that free citizens of the West are experiencing to the 13-year siege on the Strip is, at the very least, tasteless. Now that the virus has crossed the military checkpoints and 12 Palestinians have been diagnosed as infected, the distortion of this comparison is going to become tragically clear.

– Lockdown Gaza

Gaza residents will suffer not just from the natural complications the virus causes, but from the fact that the siege puts them at an extreme disadvantage in all three categories considered vital to battling the coronavirus epidemic: health services, social conditions that determine the level of health, and the ability to keep social distance from one another.

Health services

Extensive information has been published over the past few weeks on the readiness of the world’s health systems and their influence on coronavirus mortality levels. Basing themselves on South Korea – which unlike Italy and Spain managed to gain considerable control over the spread of the virus – experts argue that testing is crucial to saving lives. But today in Gaza there are very few testing kits (around 200) and as of March 24, only 144 people had been tested.

We also know that in some countries, people are dying because the hospitals can’t cope with the huge number of patients needing ventilators. Doctors in the United States and Israel are warning that the number of available ventilators – 52 and 40 per 100,000 people, respectively – is not sufficient. Meanwhile, in Gaza, there are three ventilators for every 100,000 people, a ratio that will prove to be a death sentence for many.

Gaza has some 30 hospitals and major clinics that provide 1.3 beds for every 1,000 people. Israel has over twice the amount – 3.3 beds available for every 1,000 people – while in the EU the average is 5.4. The difference between Gaza and Israel, which has occupied the enclave for 40 years and continues to control its borders, is not just extremely grave, but also an expression of what Prof. Sara Roy of Harvard University has called “de-development”: the deliberate weakening of the economic and social capabilities of the Gaza population.

Social conditions that determine the health level