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.
 


Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

Updated 03 August 2020

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

  • Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir
  • Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions

CAIRO: Three key Nile basin countries on Monday resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said.
The talks came a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir.
Ethiopia’s announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Both Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir without reaching a deal among the Nile basin countries.
Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, help bring them out of poverty and also make the country a major power exporter.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile River to supply its booming population of 100 million people with fresh water, asserts the dam poses an existential threat.
Sudan, between the two countries, says the project could endanger its own dams — though it stands to benefit from the Ethiopian dam, including having access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding. The confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile near Khartoum forms the Nile River that then flows the length of Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia took part in Monday’s talks, which were held online amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was also attended by officials from the African Union and South Africa, the current chairman of the regional block, said Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas. Officials from the US and the European Union were also in attendance, said Egypt’s irrigation ministry.
Technical and legal experts from the three countries would resume their negotiations based on reports presented by the AU and the three capitals following their talks in July, Abbas said. The three ministers would meet online again on Thursday, he added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attributed the reservoir’s filling to the torrential rains flooding the Blue Nile — something that occurred naturally, “without bothering or hurting anyone else.”
However, Egypt’s Irrigation Minister Mohammed Abdel-Atty said the filling, without “consultations and coordination” with downstream countries, sent “negative indications that show Ethiopian unwillingness to reach a fair deal.”
Ethiopia’s irrigation ministry posted on its Facebook page that it would work to achieve a “fair and reasonable” use of the Blue Nile water.
Key sticking points remain, including how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan have pushed for a binding agreement, which Ethiopia rejects and insists on non-binding guidelines.