Crossings update: Rafah opens for three days. Despite resumption of PA coordination, Erez remains essentially closed. Spike in coronavirus cases

Rafah Crossing. Photo by Asmaa Elkhaldi

December 3, 2020. Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt was opened for the second time in November for travel in both directions. This is only the fourth time since March of this year that exit from Gaza were permitted, and the sixth time residents were allowed to enter the Strip from Egypt. In the three days during which the crossing was open, a total of 2,696 people exited Gaza and 829 entered.

At Erez Crossing, between Gaza and Israel, travel is still a fraction of what it was in the first two months of 2020, before the pandemic outbreak, when Israel decided to impose a full lockdown at the crossing. On November 17, the Palestinian Authority announced it would resume security coordination with Israel, including coordination for travel permits, but this has not led to an increase in travel due to Israel’s ongoing restrictions on almost all movement of people to and from the Strip. The few people still being allowed to exit Gaza are mostly patients in need of urgent (non-COVID) medical treatment and their companions. The Kerem Shalom commercial crossing is operating normally for transit of goods, subject to routine restrictions imposed by Israel.

On November 25, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza provided an update on preparations being made to address the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the Strip. Five-hundred beds were allocated for treatment of COVID-19 patients, and by last week, more than half of these were in use. Some 150 ICU beds had been designated for COVID-19 patients, about 80% of which are in use. As part of its preparations, the Ministry of Health also posted an additional 1,000 medical staff in medical facilities across the Strip. While the health care system is currently able to continue functioning, there is real concern that it will reach its capacity in the very near future.

A total of upwards of 23,000 COVID-19 cases have been found in Gaza since March this year. There are currently more than 10,000 active patients in the Strip, about four times more than there were in the beginning of November. Of the active cases, 140 are in critical condition. So far, 122 Gaza residents have died as a result of pandemic.