GAZA CITY: The arrival of the coronavirus in Bethlehem has alarmed Palestinians. They have become more cautious and aggressive toward any movement by people who they think should be in quarantine.
Mohammed Al-Mashaikh, 25, was one of the victims of such fears when he tried to meet his fiancée at her home. Her neighbors surrounded him for four hours until the arrival of the representatives of the Ministry of Health and police.
Al-Mashaikh works as a chef in a restaurant next to the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem, where the first coronavirus cases in Palestine were discovered.
“I shook hands with one of the staff at the Angel Hotel, who was declared infected. A sample was taken from me and tested, and the result was negative, but they asked me to stay in quarantine at home for 14 days,” Al-Mashaikh told ArabNews.
He said: “It was 14 days since I shook hands with the infected person, but the calculation of the Ministry of Health was based on when they took the sample from me, and I had 4 days left.”
Mohammed proposed to his cousin Azhar on Feb. 23 and intended to hold the engagement party in April before the marriage in the summer.
“I fell in love with Azhar a year and a half ago, and we intended to get married in the summer, but in these circumstances I don’t think our plans will remain the same,” he said.
“On that day, I went by the car from my home in Aida camp in Bethlehem to my fiancée’s house in Al-Aroub camp, north of Hebron. When I arrived, my fiancée was not at home, and I waited for her there after I phoned her.”
“The neighbors gathered near my fiancée’s house when they learned that I was visiting, and locked me in a room inside the house for four hours until midnight, when the Ministry of Health allowed me to return to my house by car with a request to stay in isolation,” he added.
President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories, and restaurants, cafes and wedding halls were closed, and schools and universities were suspended.
Al-Mashaikh does not believe that he made a mistake when he left the house to meet his fiancée, who on the previous day told him not to come to visit her.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health recorded 48 cases of coronavirus, most of them from the city of Bethlehem in the south of the West Bank, which prompted them to put a bar on all entry and exit from the city.
Experts are not able to estimate the losses inflicted on the Palestinian economy by the coronavirus pandemic, but they expect the worst.
The Palestinian economy suffered as a result of the closure of tourist establishments in several cities, such as Bethlehem, Ramallah and others, as the government was forced to close hotels, restaurants and public places, creating temporary unemployment for thousands of workers.
Abdel-Ghani Al-Atari, head of the Ramallah Chamber of Commerce, said that the decision to close tourist establishments affects traders in general, noting that purchases had shrunk by 60 percent.
Al-Mashaikh is no longer working or getting paid, and he does not know how long this situation will continue.
“The circumstances are exceptional; I do not know when I will return to work, and when the situation will return to normal. All I am looking for now is to leave the house like any normal person and to meet my fiancée,” he said.