Among stalls piled high with sticky sweets and new clothes for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday, crowds of thousands – very few wearing masks – have been gathering in Gaza’s markets and on its main shopping streets.
Meanwhile, a sudden increase in the number of Covid-19 infections this week – from under 20 to at least 55 – has renewed worries of a larger outbreak.
“Whoever fears the coronavirus can lock himself in his home,” says barber Mohammed Emadadein, who employs six people in Gaza City. “Eid is our best time of year because everyone wants to cut his hair for the holiday. If I close my shop, we’ll die of hunger.”
Some Gazans questioned the decision by the Hamas authorities to continue with plans for a limited opening of mosques – two months after they were closed because of the pandemic.
“It’s as if the government officials don’t belong to this country, they closed mosques, cafes and restaurants when we had the first three cases. Now they ease restrictions when we have 35 cases in two days,” says Fathi, 56, a father-of-three, who plans to pray at home.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the spread of coronavirus in Gaza – which is under blockade by Israel and Egypt – could be disastrous given the high level of poverty and weak healthcare system.