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78-year-old woman is East Jerusalem’s first virus fatality

Victim from Issawiya said to have preexisting health problems; death comes 2 days after report Israeli authorities considering lockdown of some Arab areas in city’s eastern sector

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing with a patient with suspected coronavirus at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on April 10, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing with a patient with suspected coronavirus at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on April 10, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

East Jerusalem recorded its first confirmed fatality from coronavirus on Saturday morning, with the death of a 78-year-old woman.

The victim from Issawiya was named locally as Nawal Abu Hummus.

She died at Jerusalem’s Shaare Tzedek Medical Center and was said to have suffered from preexisting health conditions.

The woman was one of seven fatalities announced by the Health Ministry, taking the death toll in Israel to 158.

According to the Israeli Health Ministry, dozens of cases of the virus have been recorded in East Jerusalem, where many residents live in densely populated neighborhoods and tight living quarters.

Magen David Adom medical workers seen at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing, at the entrance to the East Jerusalem village of Jabel Mukaber, on April 2, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Authorities are also concerned about a spike in infections due to the upcoming monthlong Ramadan holiday, which starts in late April.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday that some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were likely to be placed under lockdown, following an increase in infection rates. Kan said that Silwan and Ras al-Amud were among the neighborhoods facing closures.

The Arab Israeli communities of Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina became a “restricted area” on Saturday morning amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak in the area.

Two weeks ago the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has the country’s highest infection rate for a large community, was placed under strict lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave municipal boundaries to work in key industries or to receive medical care. Several Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods were put under lockdown on Sunday.

A view of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on December 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

East Jerusalem hospital officials have expressed concerns about a possible increase in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, as medical authorities ramp up testing of Palestinians in the area.

But Israel Police closed down a makeshift coronavirus testing clinic in East Jerusalem because it was operating under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, according to a report Wednesday.

The clinic was set up Tuesday next to a mosque in the Silwan neighborhood of the capital and carried out tests until the early evening, the Haaretz newspaper reported. However, later that night police arrived and arrested four people running the clinic.

Magen David Adom medical workers seen at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing at the Shuafat Refugee Camp in east Jerusalem, April 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Public Security Ministry said in a statement: “All activity by the Palestinian Authority in Israeli territory that is not coordinated and approved by authorities is prohibited under law and the police must prevent it.”

Israel considers East Jerusalem its territory, though Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state. Though its residents are Palestinians, East Jerusalem is under the control of the Israeli government, which is responsible for providing them with services.

Medical authorities opened four testing stations in East Jerusalem late last week and have since — according to the Health Ministry — tested many Palestinian residents of the city for COVID-19.

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