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Gaza opens Egypt crossing to returnees despite coronavirus concerns

The crossing was opened on Monday [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 April, 2020

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One-way traffic into the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing would be allowed for the coming four days, Gaza's interior ministry said on Monday.
Gaza's Hamas-run government on Monday temporarily re-opened the border crossing with Egypt, shut due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, to allow hundreds of Palestinians to return. 

One-way traffic into the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing would be allowed for the coming four days, Gaza's interior ministry said. 

All those returning would be put into compulsory 21-day quarantine which could be extended, interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm said.

Read also: Gaza's Great March of Return second-anniversary rally cancelled over coronavirus concerns

So far, 13 Covid-19 infections have been confirmed in Gaza, all from people returning to the territory or those in contact with them while in quarantine.

But the Strip, under an Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007, is one of the most densely-populated territories on earth and has a struggling health system.

Hamas has imposed a series of measures including closing markets, schools and mosques.

Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group since 2007, had run out of Covid-19 testing kits last week but the World Health Organisation delivered 480 kits on Sunday.

At the Rafah arrivals hall on Monday, returning residents were met by dozens of police officers, doctors and nurses wearing protective medical equipment.

Among the returnees were students and people who had been outside Gaza for treatment for other diseases, said doctor Mohamed Abu Salamieh.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is the only exit from Gaza apart from into Israel.

The Covid-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 117,596 people worldwide, while over 1,889,062 infections have been confirmed.

The majority of those that infected with Covid-19 experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

There are still no known treatments for the virus, though more than 438,176 have already recovered from the infection.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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