As West Bank virus deaths rise by 4, Gaza markets open for 1st time in 2 months
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As West Bank virus deaths rise by 4, Gaza markets open for 1st time in 2 months

Fatalities take reported deaths from the virus among West Bank Palestinians to 30; Hamas says markets officially allowed back in business with social distancing regulations

A Palestinian medical team transports the body of person who died of the COVID-19 disease from the military hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, on July 9, 2020. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
A Palestinian medical team transports the body of person who died of the COVID-19 disease from the military hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, on July 9, 2020. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Four Palestinian men died of COVID-19 in the West Bank on Saturday, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said, with over 350 new cases of coronavirus discovered over the previous 24 hours.

The official Wafa news agency reported that the two of the fatalities were a 69-year-old man from Yatta near Hebron, and a 95-year-old man from Bethlehem.

Authorities said the four fatalities took the West Bank Palestinian death toll from the virus to 30, making it the second deadliest day since the start of the pandemic.

The majority of deaths have been in the Hebron governorate, which has emerged as the epicenter of the West Bank’s outbreak.

The ministry reported there were 378 new West Bank cases and 85 in East Jerusalem over the past 24 hours, with the two largest clusters in Hebron (326 cases) and the Ramallah/al-Bireh governorate (36 cases).

West Bank residents saw the deadliest day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, with five deaths and 331 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

At the end of May, the PA seemed to have successfully flattened the curve in the West Bank — the lockdown had begun early, and only a few hundred infections had been confirmed.

With the end of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh hailed the end of restrictions as a return to “normal life,” while emphasizing that the PA was ready to reinstate a lockdown if necessary.

The Palestinian Authority has since entered a second wave whose toll far exceeds the first.

Mask-clad Palestinian security forces stand at a checkpoint in the village of Tafouh, west of Hebron in the West Bank, on June 19, 2020, while enforcing a lockdown due to a surge of new cases of coronavirus. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Last Friday, the PA ordered a five-day lockdown across the West Bank after two weeks of rapidly mounting cases. All businesses, except for pharmacies and grocery stores, were shut down and residents were asked to stay at home. With the number of cases showing no sign of going down, the lockdown was extended for another five days on Wednesday.

PA health minister Mai al-Kaila in a press conference Friday morning announced that supermarkets would also be closed on Friday and Saturday in Hebron in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, and the health ministry recommended that the lockdown be extended for another 14 days beginning last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Hamas terror group which rules the Gaza Strip announced on Saturday that markets were being officially reopened after they were shuttered for over two months.

Shoppers were required to keep to social distancing regulations.

Palestinians in the central vegetable market in the Rafah refugee camp in the Southern Gaza Strip, on July 8, 2020 (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

The Gaza Strip has seemingly successfully kept the virus at bay, registering only a few cases. Seventy-two have been confirmed, with most of them dating back months; only 11 coronavirus cases are currently active in the Strip, according to reports.

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group which controls Gaza, says it has been gradually relaxing restrictions.

International officials have long feared that if the virus gained a grip, it could quickly spread and overwhelm an already gutted health system in the enclave.

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