Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced on Saturday new restrictions in the West Bank following a steep rise in coronavirus cases.
At an emergency press conference in his Ramallah bureau, Shtayyeh announced that the Palestinian Authority will be implementing a five-day lockdown in the Hebron District and a 48-hour curfew in the Nablus District.
According to these new guidelines, checkpoints will be erected in these areas and movement will be limited. Shops will be closed, with the exception of essential businesses like supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies.
Nablus District Governor Ibrahim Ramadan instructed all event halls, restaurants, clubs and salons to close, in addition to mosques and educational institutions, beginning Saturday morning. Similar steps were taken in Hebron, with the understanding that more restrictions will be put in place if infections do not decline.
According to the official statistics released by the Palestinian Health Ministry, there are 365 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 108 of which were diagnosed on Saturday alone. By district, 280 cases are in Hebron, 26 in Nablus, and in East Jerusalem, mainly in the Palestinian villages along the border, there are 38 diagnoses. Other areas report a handful of cases.
In the Gaza Strip, the number of active coronavirus cases has declined from 26 to 15, and the Health Ministry in the strip reports that 11 COVID-19 patients have recovered, according to test results from the weekend.
The Palestinian Authority is still hesitant to consider reinstating a lockdown, but has brought back a number of restrictions imposed at the beginning of the crisis, such as banning mass gatherings for weddings, graduation parties, conferences and funerals. Businesses, mainly factories, restaurants and cafes, must follow coronavirus guidelines, and Palestinians are obligated to wear masks and socially distance.
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Shtayyeh noted that security forces will begin enforcing the coronavirus measures immediately, and for the next five days will hand out fines for anyone not following the guidelines.
According to Shtayyeh, cases rose after many restrictions were lifted because people haven’t been abiding by the regulations issued by the government. He also said many new cases originate from Palestinian workers or patients who went into Israel and then returned to the West Bank.
“I call all of our brothers within the Green Line not to enter the West Bank at all for 14 days,” he said. He also has banned Palestinians from working in Israeli settlements , and said that if the rise in cases continues, the government will consider returning to a full closure.