Israeli strike puts sole Gaza Covid-19 lab out of action: Ministry

Smoke is seen after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on May 17, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

GAZA (AFP) - The Palestinian enclave of Gaza's only Covid-19 laboratory is no longer able to carry out testing due to an Israeli air strike Monday (May 17) on the clinic housing it, local authorities said.

Al-Rimal clinic, in the town of the same name in the Gaza Strip, was partly destroyed, while the territory's health ministry and the office of Qatar's Red Crescent were also hit, officials said.

Medical personnel at the ministry were wounded, some critically, the Hamas-run enclave's deputy health minister Yousef Abu al-Rish told reporters.

Ministry spokesman Ashraf Qidra said the Israeli strikes "threaten to undermine the efforts of the health ministry in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic".

The raids "stopped screening tests... at the central laboratory", he added.

Before the military escalation between Hamas and Israel a week ago, authorities in Gaza tested an average of some 1,600 people a day.

The rate of positive tests was among the highest in the world, at 28 per cent, and hospitals have been overwhelmed by patients.

The enclave of two million residents has so far received 122,000 vaccine doses, more than half of which have not been administered, according to the World Health Organisation.

WHO says 103,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gaza, of whom more than 930 have died.

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Civilians on both sides of the fight sought shelter, as Israel bombarded Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants resumed cross-border rocket fire on Tuesday.

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