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Gaza has changed in the coronavirus era.

Authorities and residents in Gaza behave as if coronavirus is already a threat to prevent potential catastrophe.

Gaza City – An outbreak of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip would be catastrophic. Critical shortages of drugs, protective equipment, testing materials and ventilators in Gaza’s hospitals mean people would be quickly overwhelmed by an outbreak.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the healthcare system in Gaza would likely not be able to cope with more than 100 to 150 serious cases at any one time.

So far, only 13 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Gaza, and all either remain in isolation or have recovered. But authorities and residents in Gaza are not taking any chances; even though the virus is not believed to be spreading in the community yet, much of the population is acting as if it is already a threat.

“Prevention is better than cure, and I try to be careful while I interact with customers,” says Mohammed al-Masri, a 23-year-old fruit vendor wearing a mask and gloves at his stall in Gaza City.

“Strawberries are seasonal, and if I don’t sell them these days, I will lose my income, especially since fewer people are keen to purchase fruit nowadays during the closure.”

Protective clothing is still relatively rare among street vendors, who usually subsist on low incomes and are not looking to add to their costs by buying masks and gloves. But it is already common in storefronts such as restaurants and bakeries, which are also offering squirts of hand sanitiser to clients.

Street hawkers hauling carts selling sanitising products were already a common sight in Gaza, but now they are doing a roaring trade as people stock up on chemicals such as chlorine. Groups of volunteers can sometimes be seen spraying disinfectant in the streets.

Although the authorities have not imposed a lockdown of the kind seen in many countries, including over the fence in Israel, they have closed places where people gather in large numbers, including mosques, markets and schools.

As everywhere, many Palestinians have to learn to go about their everyday business online.

Nidaa Abu Sabha, 30, is a teacher who lives in Abassan in Khan Younis. She is teaching her students using her phone, sending recorded lessons to her pupils via WhatsApp.

“My husband is the backbone of my success,” she says. “He takes care of our children while I am working, and he helps me with setting up the phone, so the image is good while I’m teaching online.”

While many are finding social distancing tough, some are working to make it easier for others, such as Fayez Abu Muhareb, 25. Together with four friends, he dresses as a clown to entertain the kids of Khan Younis refugee camp.

“We roam the neighbourhood in clown costumes and try to spread hope and smiles. We want to bring this effort to reach the whole Gaza Strip,” he says.

A Palestinian worker makes protective clothing at a factory in Sheikh Radwan in Gaza City. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

A Palestinian worker makes protective clothing at a factory in Sheikh Radwan in Gaza City. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Workers at the 'Nada Palace' bakery in Khan Younis came up with a unique way to raise awareness of the pandemic. They have been decorating cakes with different protective tools like face masks and sanitisers using whipped cream and melted chocolate. Flags of countries ravaged by the pandemic are added to the cakes. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Workers at the ‘Nada Palace’ bakery in Khan Younis came up with a unique way to raise awareness of the pandemic. They have been decorating cakes with different protective tools like face masks and sanitisers using whipped cream and melted chocolate. Flags of countries ravaged by the pandemic are added to the cakes. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Beach stalls are common in Gaza and are usually heaving with customers drinking tea and smoking shisha, especially in spring. These days, they stand deserted. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Beach stalls are common in Gaza and are usually heaving with customers drinking tea and smoking shisha, especially in spring. These days, they stand deserted. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
With the help of her husband, kindergarten teacher Nidaa Abu Dabha, 30, records educational videos for her students and then sends them via WhatsApp to parents' groups. "I am proud of my job and the creative alternatives we use to help our children receive their education under all circumstances," she says. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

With the help of her husband, kindergarten teacher Nidaa Abu Dabha, 30, records educational videos for her students and then sends them via WhatsApp to parents’ groups. “I am proud of my job and the creative alternatives we use to help our children receive their education under all circumstances,” she says. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
A farmer works on his land near the village of Khuza'a, in the southern Gaza Strip. He wears protective gear even while tending his wheat crops. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

A farmer works on his land near the village of Khuza’a, in the southern Gaza Strip. He wears protective gear even while tending his wheat crops. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
A volunteer disinfects buildings in the village of Khuza'a using a chlorine solution. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

A volunteer disinfects buildings in the village of Khuza’a using a chlorine solution. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
A girl on a swing inside her house in Khan Younis refugee camp. Parents are trying to provide entertainment inside their homes to ensure children do not play in the streets. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

A girl on a swing inside her house in Khan Younis refugee camp. Parents are trying to provide entertainment inside their homes to ensure children do not play in the streets. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Young Palestinian volunteers disinfect streets and cars in Khan Younis. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Young Palestinian volunteers disinfect streets and cars in Khan Younis. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Workers at a shawarma shop work in protective clothing in Khan Younis. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Workers at a shawarma shop work in protective clothing in Khan Younis. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Mohammed Al-Masri, 23, sells strawberries at his stall in Khan Younis. Few street hawkers take the precautions he does. "Ultimately, I have a family to take care of," he says. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Mohammed Al-Masri, 23, sells strawberries at his stall in Khan Younis. Few street hawkers take the precautions he does. “Ultimately, I have a family to take care of,” he says. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
The owner of this restaurant in Khan Younis put out a sign to discourage people from handshakes, as well as a bottle of hand sanitiser. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

The owner of this restaurant in Khan Younis put out a sign to discourage people from handshakes, as well as a bottle of hand sanitiser. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
An employee at a currency exchange gives a customer a squirt of hand sanitiser, now a common ritual in Gaza's stores. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

An employee at a currency exchange gives a customer a squirt of hand sanitiser, now a common ritual in Gaza’s stores. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Construction last month of the quarantine hospital being used to isolate those suspected of being infected with COVID-19 after returning to Gaza. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Construction last month of the quarantine hospital being used to isolate those suspected of being infected with COVID-19 after returning to Gaza. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC
Children buy cleaning products from a peddler in a camp in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. Chlorine is the disinfectant in highest demand now. [Abed Zagout/ICRC]

Children buy cleaning products from a peddler in a camp in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. Chlorine is the disinfectant in highest demand now. ABED ZAGOUT/ICRC

(Source: Al Jazeera)

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