Palestinian coronavirus restrictions being eased

(AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Palestinian coronavirus restrictions being eased

  • State of emergency was imposed on March 5

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian government is ending its coronavirus lockdown following a declining number of cases, the prime minister said Monday.

As of Sunday, 602 cases had been recorded in the Palestinian Authority, including Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There have been five deaths and 475 people have recovered from the disease. The Palestinian Authority imposed a state of emergency on March 5 after the first coronavirus cases were recorded in Bethlehem.

Ministries and industry sectors will resume operations after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, while churches and mosques can reopen on Tuesday with social distancing and other preventive measures in place.

Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said the decision was based on a recommendation from the Emergency Committee to Confront Coronavirus after random checks on Palestinian workers returning from Israel. The risk had receded and the curve of cases had fallen “which means that we are in a new phase of facing the disease, which is the easing of procedures.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank work inside Israel, which has recorded about 17,000 cases over the past few months thereby increasing the number of cases in the West Bank.

Shtayyeh said that places of worship could open on the condition that people wore masks, brought their own prayer mat and were prevented from carrying out ablutions on the premises.

Courts will reopen after the Eid holiday, and so will all ministries, official bodies and industrial and commercial establishments starting on Wednesday.

But the prime minister added that restrictions and strict procedures would return in the event that new infections were discovered.

National Economy Minister Khaled Al-Osaily told Arab News that steps to ease  restrictions came amid an absence of any cases during the past two days, with the government interested in a return to normal life.

Al-Osaily said the economy was a factor when the government took its decision to ease restrictions.

He added that local authorities would monitor progress and take all the necessary measures, according to developments on the ground, in a way that respected people’s safety, security and health.

Palestinians welcomed the reopening of commercial facilities after months of closure.

“This is the happiest news I have heard in months,” waiter Rizk Khalaf told Arab News. “We need work, we cannot live without it.”

Nasr Abdel Karim, a professor of financial and economic sciences at the Arab American University in Jenin, told Arab News that the government was trying to repair the economic damage caused by the state of emergency.

He said that the government had decided that continuing the severe lockdown would prolong the “bleeding” of the “fragile and distressed” Palestinian economy, and that the loosening of restrictions was mainly motivated by economics.

But he warned against a failure to properly and cautiously deal with the easing of restrictions. The worst case scenario should remain in place because the emergence of new infections could make it harder to return to tough measures, he said.
 


El-Sisi says Egypt will not stand idle to threat to Egyptian and Libyan security

Updated 4 min 6 sec ago

El-Sisi says Egypt will not stand idle to threat to Egyptian and Libyan security

  • Libyan tribal leaders flew on Wednesday to Cairo from the eastern city of Benghazi for a meeting with El-Sisi
  • El-Sisi said at the meeting Egypt’s main goal in Libya was to “activate the free will of the Libyan people”

CAIRO: Egypt will not stand idle in the face of any moves that pose a direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan national security, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday, according to a presidency statement.
The statement also said tribal leaders meeting El-Sisi in Cairo had authorized the president and Egypt's army to intervene in their country "to protect Libyan sovereignty".
El-Sisi met mainly eastern Libyan tribesmen in a show of solidarity on Thursday, days after Libya’s eastern-based parliament urged Cairo to intervene in their country’s civil war.
The meeting reflects the growing regional stakes in Libya, divided since 2014 between areas held by the government in Tripoli, backed by Turkey, and a rival eastern administration, backed by the UAE, Russia and Egypt.
On Tuesday, the eastern-based parliament allied to commander Haftar Khalifa called for Egypt to help counter Turkish support for Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
Turkey has helped the Tripoli administration force Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to abandon an offensive on Tripoli.


Any major escalation could risk igniting a direct conflict in Libya among the foreign powers that have already poured in weapons and fighters in violation of an arms embargo.
In response to Turkish actions, El-Sisi last month warned that Egypt’s army might enter Libya if the Tripoli government and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on Sirte, a central coastal city seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals.
Libyan tribal leaders flew on Wednesday to Cairo from the eastern city of Benghazi, the main LNA base, for a meeting with El-Sisi entitled “Egypt and Libya, one people, one fate.” Haftar enjoys the backing of tribes mainly from east but also former LNA strongholds like Tarhouna in western Libya.
On the flight some tribesmen were chanting “El-Sisi” and “Haftar,” a video posted online showed.
El-Sisi said at the meeting Egypt’s main goal in Libya was to “activate the free will of the Libyan people,” a presidency statement said. It also published pictures showing El-Sisi sitting next to tribal leaders, all wearing masks against coronavirus.
In June El-Sisi said Egypt could act militarily in Egypt either if the House of Representatives requested this, or simply based on the UN charter of a right of self-defense.
Eastern tribes and other factions allied to Haftar have also been involved in closure of oil ports since January. The LNA says the tribes act on their own but analysts say their activity in Haftar-controlled territory is coordinated with the LNA.
Sirte is held by the LNA and the last major western city before the historic dividing line with the east, now controlled by Haftar, two regions that were united with the south at Libya’s independence in 1951.