The Palestinian government announced on Wednesday it will impose a full five-day lockdown in the West Bank starting Friday morning as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
The Palestinian Health Ministry and defense establishment recommended locking down the entire West Bank after local authorities had difficulty fully enforcing regional closures in several towns; limited restrictions in “red areas” such as Bethlehem and Hebron, where the majority of coronavirus cases were discovered, failed to curb the virus’s spread. In the Hebron district, four patients died within 30 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Under the measures announced by Palestinian Authority spokesman Ibrahim Melhem, all public and private institutions will be ordered shut, public transportation will not operate and civilians will be barred from moving between districts. Regulations do allow for bakeries, grocery stores and pharmacies to open between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M.
The Palestinian Authority said it will strictly enforce the lockdown, warning that anyone found violating the orders will be punished severely. “We are confident Palestinians will display civic responsibility and follow safety orders to curb the spread of the disease,” Melhem said.
As of Wednesday evening, the Palestinian Authority confirmed 2,435 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, with three patients on life support.
Dr. Kamal Shakhra, a spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry who is leading the government’s coronavirus response, told Nazareth-based Shams Radio that authorities fear the number of patients in serious condition might spike, overwhelming hospitals that may not have enough ventilators. “The situation is under control for now,” Shakhra says, but warned that it might not stay that way should cases continue to rise.
By about mid-May, the number of coronavirus patients dropped in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Health Ministry was all but ready to announce that it had eradicated the disease. With the end of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan and the return to routine at the end of May, cases rose significantly – specifically in Hebron, Bethlehem and communities surrounding Jerusalem and Nablus.
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Unlike the West Bank, the Gaza Strip has not seen an increase in cases in the past two weeks. According to official statistics, all 15 confirmed cases in Gaza are people who recently returned from abroad via the Rafah border crossing. Gaza guidelines require anyone entering the enclave from Egypt or Israel must quarantine for two weeks.