Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila announced on Friday that 17 people in the Bethlehem area have recovered from the novel coronavirus.
“I congratulate… our people on the healing of 17 sick persons from COVID-19,” she told a press conference in Ramallah, noting they had been held at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala.
Kaila said they underwent three separate tests for the disease in recent days, all of which came back negative, adding they would now be required to quarantine themselves in their homes.
She also said they will be tested again for the illness in two weeks and if those tests come back negative, they will no longer be required to isolate themselves.
The PA has diagnosed 48 cases, and with the recoveries are now treating 31.
Kaila added that the recovered persons were all young and only experienced mild symptoms, noting none of them required intensive care.
Palestine TV, the official PA channel, broadcast footage of some of the recovered leaving the Angel Hotel as large numbers of PA security forces, journalists and other Palestinians were gathered nearby.
Shortly after Palestinian health authorities confirmed the first cases in the West Bank in early March, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency for 30 days.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed 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.
Shtayyeh has also declared that no one would be allowed to leave or enter the Bethlehem area, except in case of emergencies, and heavily restricted movement within it.
Images from Bethlehem and surrounding towns posted on social media on Wednesday and Thursday showed largely empty streets and shuttered stores.
On Thursday, the PA warned that it could take more stringent measures to prevent the spread of the virus after it reported that some Palestinians in the West Bank violated their quarantine.
“If information and assessments come to us that require stricter moves, I affirm that we could resort to carrying out stricter moves,” PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said at a press conference, adding that, “We call on all citizens to take this issue seriously.”
Milhem said that the PA’s measures could “go much further than what you are imagining,” but he did not clarify what they may entail.
He said that people in Beit Sahour who were later diagnosed with COVID-19 had violated their quarantine, as did an individual in the northern West Bank.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, there were still no confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Some 900 people in Gaza were in more than a dozen quarantine facilities around the coastal enclave, and 2,346 others were isolated in their homes, the ministry said on Thursday.
In early March, Abdelnaser Soboh, the head of the WHO’s sub-office in Gaza, said the coastal enclave’s health infrastructure would not be able to handle hundreds or thousands of cases of the virus.
“The health system in Gaza is already shaky and barely functioning. It cannot take on the burden of a large number of cases,” he told The Times of Israel, warning that such a scenario could contribute to its collapse.
Hospitals in Gaza frequently lack sufficient medications and medical equipment and often rely on backup generators to maintain a consistent flow of power.
Soboh said that the health institutions in Gaza carry a total of 2,500 beds and some 50-60 ventilators for adults.