Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre shuttered again amid coronavirus resurgence

Site sacred to Christians closed to worshipers once again; church had been shut for 2 months during first wave of pandemic but reopened in late May

A woman prays in front of the closed Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 25, 2020. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)
A woman prays in front of the closed Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 25, 2020. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, widely regarded as Christianity’s holiest site, was once again shuttered to worshipers on Friday due to rising coronavirus numbers in the city, according to multiple reports in Arab media.

The church had been closed for two months during the first wave of the pandemic but was reopened in late May as Israel and Palestinians appeared to bring the pathogen under control. However, a new wave of mass infections has eclipsed the first on both sides of the green line in recent weeks, leading to new closures and restrictive measures as the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority try to curb the spread of the virus.

There was no assessment as to how long the church would remain closed.

The church, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City, is the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, entombed and resurrected. The Christian authorities managing the site closed it to visitors in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but clerics maintained prayers inside the shuttered church throughout its closure.

It was not immediately clear whether such prayers would continue this time as well.

إعادة إغلاق ابواب كنيسة القيامة المقدسة . The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is closed again..

Posted by Adeeb Jawad Joudeh Alhusseini on Friday, July 10, 2020

Palestinian 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 past 24 hours, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said.

There are currently 4,977 active cases in the West Bank, the vast majority of which surfaced in the past three weeks. And, there have been 25 deaths in the second wave, nearly all of them in Hebron governorate, which has emerged as the epicenter of the West Bank’s outbreak.

In Israel, the Health Ministry on Friday reported 1,684 new virus cases since Thursday morning, the highest 24-hour tally since the start of the pandemic, with the total number of infections in Israel up to 35,631.

The ministry also announced two new fatalities since Thursday evening, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 350.

According to ministry figures, there are 16,739 active virus cases. This included 130 people in serious condition, of whom 42 were on ventilators. Another 91 people were in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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