15 Palestinian workers at Jerusalem poultry factory test positive for virus – PA

Spokesman says seven of the newly confirmed cases traveled from the plant to their West Bank homes and were near other people before health officials tested them for COVID-19

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

A picture taken from the Israeli side of Tarkumiya checkpoint near the southern city of Kiryat Gat shows Palestinian workers crossing into Israel to reach their jobs on November 14, 2019 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of Tarkumiya checkpoint near the southern city of Kiryat Gat shows Palestinian workers crossing into Israel to reach their jobs on November 14, 2019 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem announced on Wednesday that 15 Palestinians from the West Bank, who work at a poultry plant in the Atarot Industrial Zone in East Jerusalem, tested positive for coronavirus.

Milhem said seven of the 15 newly confirmed cases had traveled from the factory to their homes in the central West Bank and were close to other people before Palestinian health officials tested them for COVID-19.

Palestinian authorities have so far said 134 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have tested positive for the virus, including 18 who have recovered and one who died. Twelve of the cases have been in Gaza and the remainder in the West Bank.

Milhem said medical teams were testing all people suspected of having been near the poultry factory workers who were infected by the virus.

Palestinian health official carries out a test for coronavirus on a man in Bethlehem on March 31, 2020. (Wafa)

While Israel started barring the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank who enter its territory on a daily basis nearly two weeks ago, it has made an exception for Palestinian laborers at “vital factories” in the Atarot Industrial Zone.

The PA government spokesman also warned that the 15 newly confirmed cases of the virus were “a harbinger of danger” and called on Palestinian workers in Israel to not be “agents of the contagion.”

Tens of thousands of workers have been in Israel for most of the past two weeks, with their employers responsible for providing them with sleeping arrangements. PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Sunday they will all return to the West Bank in the coming two weeks.

Shtayyeh has instructed Palestinian workers in Israel to quarantine themselves in their homes for two weeks when they return to the West Bank.

Milhem has said the PA does not have the means to test all workers for the virus when they return to their villages.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh addressing a press conference in Ramallah on March 29, 2020. (Wafa)

Shortly after Palestinian health officials confirmed the first cases in the West Bank in early March, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency for 30 days.

Shtayyeh has since announced the closure of schools and universities, the cancellation of all hotel reservations and conferences, the shuttering of tourist and religious sites, the banning of public gatherings and protests, and other measures.

Last week, Shtayyeh unveiled drastic measures significantly restricting freedom of movement across the West Bank. He said that all Palestinians would be required to stay in their homes unless they were going to supermarkets and health institutions, among a handful of other locations.

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