PA announces 22 new virus cases, raising total of confirmed infections to 193
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PA announces 22 new virus cases, raising total of confirmed infections to 193

PM Shtayyeh says Israeli Health Ministry apologized to PA for ‘unofficial statements,’ in apparent reference to report about Israel needing to ‘medically annex’ West Bank

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian health professionals standing in a quarantine facility in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on April 3, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian health professionals standing in a quarantine facility in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on April 3, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

The Palestinian Authority health ministry announced 22 new cases of coronavirus in the West Bank on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 193.

The total includes both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. One person has died so far and 21 have recovered.

The ministry initially said in a Facebook post that the 22 newly infected people included workers who recently returned to the West Bank from jobs in Israel. However, it later edited the post to only state that the sum of infections in the West Bank and Gaza rose to 193.

Palestinian officials have recently cautioned that the number of cases in the West Bank could rise dramatically if Palestinians returning from jobs in Israel do not properly quarantine themselves.

“If the workers do not isolate [themselves], we will be moving toward a disaster on the level of all of Palestine,” Kamal al-Shakhra, the director-general of primary care at the PA Health Ministry, told reporters on Thursday.

Some two weeks ago after the first confirmed coronavirus cases of the virus emerged in Israel and the West Bank, Israeli authorities barred the vast majority of Palestinians from entering the Jewish state, but allowed tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in “essential sectors,” mostly construction, to spend one to two months in the country.

Israeli authorities said the workers would not be allowed to move back and forth between the West Bank and Israel and would be required to sleep in accommodations provided by their employers.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh addressing a press conference in Ramallah on April 3, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

On Friday, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said 45,000 workers would return to the West Bank when Passover begins. The holiday is scheduled to start on April 8.

Shtayyeh has instructed all Palestinian workers to quarantine themselves in their homes upon their return to the West Bank and said violators will be held legally accountable.

In the past month, the PA has taken a number of drastic measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the West Bank, including heavily restricting freedom of movement.

Shtayyeh also said on Friday the Israeli Health Ministry had apologized to PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila for “unofficial statements,” in an apparent reference to a Channel 12 report from Tuesday.

An unnamed senior official in the Israeli Health Ministry told Channel 12 that Israel would have no choice but to “medically annex” the West Bank.

The official, according to the channel, said he believed the number of people infected with the virus in the West Bank was higher than official tallies and stated that efforts to contain the virus in Israel and the territory should be united.

The Israeli Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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