'Gaza does not have ability to deal with Omicron': officials
The Hamas-run health ministry announced on Sunday that the besieged land strip has seen a surge in new Omicron cases but did not specify numbers.
Majdi Dhair, a health ministry official, told The New Arab: "There are deep concerns and fears of a strong and uncontrolled fourth wave triggered [in Gaza] by the Omicron variant."
He said there are likely many undetected cases of Omicron, meaning that the new Covid-19 variant will inevitably rip through the territory in the coming weeks.
"We do not have a strong health sector that could protect us from death," a Gazan cancer patient told The New Arab after health officials announced they had recorded the first case of the Omicron variant in Gazahttps://t.co/xbYR0k1nAh— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 29, 2021
Despite their best efforts, the Gaza medical workers have been unable to determine a source of the new outbreak, the official noted.
Only the central laboratory in Gaza can diagnose Omicron, posing an additional challenge in the fight to control the variant's spread.
To make matters worse, the official said his ministry does not have the medical equipment needed to deal with a surge in Covid-19 cases, in part due to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
"Israel insists on obstructing the entry of necessary medical devices, such as mobile radiology devices, ventilators, and supplies for X-ray machines, as well as oxygen stations," he explained.
He called on human rights and international institutions to intensify their pressure on Israel to allow medical equipment to be allowed into Gaza.
There are other challenges for medics in Gaza.
Mohammed Abu Rayya, a public health and epidemiological consultant at the ministry, told The New Arab that fewer than 500,000 Palestinians in Gaza - a population of over 2 million - have been vaccinated, well below levels needed to achieve herd immunity.
Abu Rayya urged citizens to get fully vaccinated, to prevent the spread of the disease.