GAZA CITY: Palestine has announced seven cases of coronavirus in the city of Bethlehem, in the south of the West Bank, and has declared a state of emergency in the cities of Bethlehem and Jericho.
Local websites reported that four people were infected with the virus in a hotel in the Beit Jala area of Bethlehem. Ministry of Health spokesman, Tareef Ashour, said: “We took samples from Polish and American foreigners, and samples from 21 workers in a hotel.
“Most of the tests are negative, but there are suspicious cases and we have transferred some samples for examination to Israeli labs in order to make sure of the infection,” he added.
Palestinian Minister of Health May Kila told a news conference in Bethlehem on Thursday that the results would be released in the coming hours, and that the ministry was in continuous communication with Tel HaShomer Hospital in Israel.
Following that announcement, the Ministry of Health declared a series of measures calling for the closure of educational institutions, mosques and churches in Bethlehem for two weeks.
The Football Federation announced the suspension of sports matches in a number of Palestinian cities in the West Bank, in a move to prevent mass gatherings.
The Federation of Churches also announced the closure of the Church of the Nativity in the city until further notice on the advice of the Ministry of Health, and the Palestinian Waqfs Ministry announced the cancelation of Friday prayers in Bethlehem’s 27 mosques.
Among the measures announced Wednesday by the Palestinian Health Ministry were increasing examinations at the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, where one case has been announced so far.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has adopted a similar approach for those crossing from Egypt into the Palestinian enclave. All those return from high risk countries will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days.
The Palestinian Authority also announced the prohibition of gatherings of more than 1,000 people in open areas, more than 50 people in one closed place and the postponing of international conferences scheduled to take place in the Palestinian Territories
In addition, the ministry said Palestinian officials would be prohibited from flying overseas and all military courses abroad were suspended until further notice.
The Ministry of Health called on Palestinians not to panic, adding the measures taken followed international measures to prevent the spread of the virus
The owner of a hotel in Bethlehem told Arab News that the reservations of 50 rooms were canceled for delegations that were expected to arrive in the city on Thursday, due to an order by Ministry of Tourism.
The Jerusalem Waqfs Department called on worshippers coming to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque to follow safety procedures and maintain hygiene, while it did not announce the cancelation of Friday prayers.
In Israel, the Ministry of Health has announced 15 cases of coronavirus infection, most of them Israelis returning from abroad, and has imposed strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including quarantining tens of thousands and stopping flights to and from 13 affected countries.