The European Union (EU) announced an assistance package of around €71 million on Thursday to help the Palestinians combat the coronavirus pandemic.The announcement was made during a video meeting between Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and foreign diplomats, including the head of the Office of the European Union Representative to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff. “The European Union welcomes the preventive measures so far taken by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the COVID-19 response Plan,” the EU said in a statement.“The EU notes the challenges linked to implementing the response plan, including the fact that the occupied Palestinian territory is economically dependent on Israel, restrictions on movement and access for Palestinians, and the complex challenges in the Gaza Strip under closure. The EU’s assistance package, which also includes humanitarian aid, is a direct response to the Palestinian Authority’s COVID-19 response Plan.”“The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented, global public health emergency with repercussions for our citizens, societies and economies,” Burgsdorff said during the meeting with Shtayyeh. “This is a time for solidarity between peoples and the time for us to stand together. The EU recognizes that Palestinians, like Europeans and many others, are severely affected. Today’s announcement is crucial to make sure that Palestinians are better equipped to fight the economic and social impact of this global pandemic.”The EU also announced that it will contribute another €9.5 million to six hospitals in east Jerusalem and advance payment of €40 million to PA civil servants to ensure that the PA has sufficient funds to cover the extra expenses foreseen in its response plan to the virus.In addition, the EU pledged €6.9 million in humanitarian aid to non-governmental organizations and UN agencies operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.Shtayyeh said during the meetings that the Palestinian plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic is estimated at $137 million. He expected that the Palestinian economy could lose up to $3.8 billion as a result of the virus, causing damage to various sectors. He called on donors to support the Palestinian budget.The funds are needed for medicine and medical equipment, as well as for preparing the health sector in its effort to fight against the disease, Shtayyeh said.He predicted that the PA budget deficit will increase to $1.4 billion due to the decrease of its revenues by more than 50%.PA President Mahmoud Abbas has approved an emergency budge for the government that will see the reduction of its expenditures to the maxim level, while preserving the aid to needy families, supporting the health sector and paying salaries to Palestinian public servants, Shtayyeh said. “This epidemic and its economic and social repercussions pose a challenge to all countries,” he added. “But we in Palestine face it under circumstances due to the occupation, limited sovereignty over our land and borders, and additional challenges imposed by the reality of the occupation.”The PA premier called for a “firm stance” against Israel’s intention to “annex parts of the West Bank” and warned that such a move poses a challenge to the Palestinians and the entire world.He also briefed the diplomats on the PA government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shtayyeh pointed out that a “national emergency committee” was established to deal with the crisis.That committee, he explained, has produced health, economic, social and security committees, each of which has been studying the repercussions of the crisis and setting creative solutions to deal with the crisis.In addition, each Palestinian community has its own emergency team that is working in cooperation with popular committees, Shtayyeh said. “Our people have experience in dealing with crises and enduring the worst conditions as a result of our experiences with the occupation, as we have learned to work in a team spirit and not to let anyone go hungry,” he said.