The Palestinian Authority has announced that as of Sunday it will intensify measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as four new cases were confirmed in the West Bank.
The PA did not specify the nature of the planned measures, which are expected to be announced by PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.
Bethlehem and the adjoining towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have been under lockdown for the past three weeks.
Three coronavirus cases – two female students and one male student – were detected in Ramallah, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said. The three students, Arab Israelis living in Ramallah who recently returned from Britain, have been placed in quarantine in Ramallah’s Hugo Chávez Hospital, Milhem said.
The fourth Palestinian diagnosed with COVID-19 is a physician from Hebron who works at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, he added. “Hadassah Hospital informed us that the physician tested positive for the coronavirus,” Milhem said.
The number of Palestinians infected with the coronavirus since the beginning of this month is 57. They include 17 Palestinians from Bethlehem who recovered from the disease and were permitted to return to their homes on Friday. The 17 Palestinians were placed in isolation at their homes for another 14 days.
PA health officials said on Saturday that they don’t have enough coronavirus test kits, and hope to obtain more from different parties in the coming days.
Milhem pointed out that the closure of the Bethlehem area was similar to the measures taken in Wuhan, the city in China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported. “The patients in Bethlehem did not transmit the disease to any Palestinian community outside their city,” he said.
In Karawat Bani Hassan near Nablus, 46 villagers were tested for the coronavirus and the results were negative, the PA government spokesman said. Another 37 Palestinians from the village have also been tested, but the results still haven’t arrived.
The Palestinians were tested after a village resident who returned from Pakistan last week was tested positive for the virus. They were suspected of having been in contact with the infected resident. The entire village has been sealed off after it became clear that the man had attended Friday prayers with dozens of people.
Milhem said 3,945 Palestinians have been tested for the coronavirus since the first cases were detected at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala on March 5. The results of 3,805 tests have been announced, and the remaining will be concluded in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the PA security forces on Friday arrested 20 imams from the Hebron area who defied the guidelines of the PA Ministry of Health and led prayers in several mosques.
At least 18 coffeeshop owners in various parts of the West Bank were also arrested by the PA security forces over the weekend for failing to close their businesses to prevent the spread of the virus.