October 1, 2020. Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened for three days this week (September 27-29) to allow travel in both directions. This is the second time the crossing was opened for exit from Gaza since Egypt closed the crossing in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the fourth time it was opened for Gaza residents returning to the Strip.
Travel through Erez Crossing, between Gaza and Israel, is still a tiny fraction (about 2%) of what it was before Israel further tightened the closure on Gaza under the guise of the pandemic. Kerem Shalom Crossing, also on Gaza’s border with Israel, is operating as usual for transit of goods into and out of Gaza.
According to the Gaza Crossings and Border Authority, during this recent opening of the crossing, Egypt allowed Egyptian or foreign passport holders, patients with referrals for treatment, as well as students and residents with visas for third countries to exit the Strip.
In the three days of Rafah’s opening, a total of 2,659 people exited the Strip and 1,700 people entered. All individuals entering Gaza were sent to mandatory quarantine in government-run facilities, which has been reduced to one week only, after which people are sent to self-isolate in their homes, provided they test negative for the virus. Previously, people were sent to quarantine for 21 days upon entering the Strip via either Rafah or Erez crossings.
According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, as of September 30 there were 1,398 active cases of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, a cumulative total of 3,075 cases, and 22 deaths so far. Last Thursday (September 24), the World Health Organization coordinated the entry of about 8,000 coronavirus testing kits into the Strip, which are expected to cover ten days of testing. Ministry of Health Spokesperson Dr. Ashraf Al Qudra said that local medical teams can conduct about 2,000 tests a day, but the actual number of tests conducted is determined by the availability of testing kits.
Travel restrictions between governates within the Strip, imposed by local authorities in late August, remain in place. Some areas in the north of the Strip and in Gaza City are still under full lockdown. Residents in the remaining areas are under an 8:00 P.M. curfew. Other restrictions have been scaled back: Many stores have been allowed to reopen provided they enforce social distancing measures; government offices (the finance, interior affairs, agriculture, and communication ministries) have partially returned to work. A recent decision made by the Gaza authorities to halt most export and sale of locally grown produce outside the Strip, in order to prevent price hikes, remains in place.