The death of a 77-year-old woman in the Gaza Strip marks the enclave’s first coronavirus fatality, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported. The illness has so far claimed three lives across the Palestinian territories.

The victim, who had been suffering from a prior illness, recently entered Gaza from Egypt and was quarantined on arrival. The Palestinian Health Ministry announced her death on Saturday.

The woman is the first coronavirus patient to die in the 41km-long patch of territory, whose 1.8 million residents are walled off from Israel to the north and east, and from Egypt to the south. Three deaths have now been recorded by the authorities in Gaza and the West Bank, and another two in Jerusalem, which is claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.

The Palestinian territories have fared relatively well throughout the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 423 cases have been recorded by the health ministry – just 83 per million people. By contrast, neighboring Israel has seen nearly 280 deaths and 17,000 cases, or 1,900 per million.

However, the low number of infections likely reflects the limited testing capacity in the territories. Ventilators are a scarce commodity, and, even before the pandemic, the Israeli blockade of Gaza was highlighted by the World Health Organization as hindering Palestinians’ access to quality healthcare. Across the Palestinian territories as a whole, fewer than 80 intensive-care unit (ICU) beds are available to treat the sickest patients.

Still, with case numbers low and no patients needing these ICU beds at present, the Palestinian authorities eased the lockdown measures in the West Bank on Monday, reopening stores and permitting local travel. Nonetheless, a wholesale ban on movement between cities and towns was not lifted in time for Saturday’s feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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