Crossings update: Four more cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Gaza. Travel through Erez and Rafah remains minimal. Electricity supply available to residents decreases.

Erez Crossing. Photo by Gisha

July 26, 2020. Over the past week and a half, four new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed among individuals being housed at government-run isolation facilities in the Gaza Strip. The four are the first to be diagnosed among those who returned to the Strip via Erez Crossing. Until now, all individuals who tested positive for the virus in Gaza had entered from Egypt via Rafah Crossing. In total, 76 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Gaza, five of which are still active, one patient died and 70 recovered.

According to a Palestinian Ministry of Health coronavirus report from today, since the beginning of the pandemic, 13,716 coronavirus tests have been administered in the Gaza Strip. Currently, 246 individuals are in isolation facilities set up by local authorities throughout the Gaza Strip. Those who test positive in these facilities are transferred to a designated field hospital set up near Rafah Crossing, where they receive treatment. Since March, anyone entering the Gaza Strip, whether via Israel or Egypt, is compelled to quarantine in an official isolation facility for a period of 21 days.

Erez Crossing has remained virtually closed since early March. A small number of seriously ill patients, their companions, and a few others have been able to travel through the crossing. Israel is refusing to process applications for travel other than urgent medical cases, citing the coronavirus lockdown and also problems with Palestinian Authority coordination. The PA stopped coordination with Israel in May, in protest of Israel’s threat to annex parts of the West Bank. The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza is not accepting or transferring applications for permits to its Israeli counterparts at the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Administration.

Gisha, together with partner organizations, addressed urgent appeals to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Minister of Defense and the Attorney General demanding they immediately lift the stringent access restrictions at Erez and admit travel applications for all needs and without requiring Palestinian coordination.

Rafah Crossing, last opened from May 12 to 14 to allow Gaza residents to return from Egypt, is expected to open in the coming weeks, sometime after Eid al Adha, to allow more residents to return. In June, 14 Gaza residents returned via Rafah Crossing with special coordination.

Recently, as summer temperatures rose and demand for electricity increased, power supply in the Strip has decreased. After several months during which electricity was supplied on an eight-hour rotation, currently, residents receive power for six consecutive hours, followed by eight hours without power. According to the United Nations, since the beginning of July, electricity has been available for about 11.7 hours per day. In June, the average was 14.4 hours per day.