‘No worries’ for Gazans turning to dark humour amid coronavirus crisis

Palestinians laugh about their situation online as health ministry prepares a quarantine zone in besieged enclave

A health worker wearing protective masks stands at a quarantine zone installed by the Palestinian health ministry in the Gaza Strip to test incoming travellers at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the south of the Hamas-run enclave on February 16, 2020, amidst efforts against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 acute respiratory disease) outbreak.  / AFP / SAID KHATIB
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Residents of the Gaza Strip have been suffering from a long list of ruinous economic and political conditions since their Nakba, or catastrophe, in 1948.

But there is one crisis that is yet to affect them: coronavirus.

The new strain of the virus that the World Health Organisation declared on January 30 has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide and infected nearly 90,000 people in many countries, including Israel.

Yet no cases of what is officially known as Covid-19 have reached the coastal strip.

Gazans who live under a 13-year Israeli economic siege and have suffered three wars since 2008 are using dark humour to cope with a crisis that would threaten the 2 million people crammed into the enclave if it were to cross its borders.

“Gaza is so blockaded that coronavirus is still unable to go in” Fadel Soliman, a Palestinian author and lecturer, joked on Twitter in response to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ministry has assured residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip that all necessary precautions have been taken to prevent the virus reaching them.

It confirmed that checks were being carried out on residents returning from countries where the infection had spread.

Health officials have even set up a quarantine zone near the southern Rafah crossing in Gaza.

A thermal camera is set up at a quarantine zone installed by the ministry of health to test passengers returning from China for coronavirus, at Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

But the virus appears of little worry to residents in Gaza, a population that continues to endure crumbling infrastructure, fuel shortages, contaminated water and power cuts.

People in Gaza appear to believe no crisis can vanquish them, because they have seen it all. But have they?

Activist Nadia Abushaban, 25, compared the virus to a chocolate-covered wafer biscuit with the name Korona that Gazans enjoy.

“We have not died of four wars, chemicals, toxic gases that half of our youth inhaled near the border fence [with Israel], light bombs, or phosphorus. You think we would die of corona with cream? Relax people,” she said.

Yousef Al Helou, a Gazan journalist who now lives in the UK, wrote on Facebook:

“About the Coronavirus:

China: No leaving the house

Japan: No study

Saudi Arabia: No pilgrim

Iran: No Friday prayer

Gaza: No Worries!”

Gazans do not believe their governments are equipped to deal with such a crisis, therefore sarcasm appears to be the best weapon they own. It is how they seek to block out their lack of hope for the future.

Akram Al Sorani, a famous author in Gaza, summed it up in a Facebook post, using the lyrics of an old Palestinian folk song.

“Corona is the one thing we haven’t experienced,” he wrote.