Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Sunday announced drastic measures significantly restricting freedom of movement, as the Palestinians attempted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in areas under their administration.
“All citizens are barred from leaving their homes as of 10 p.m. tonight,” Shtayyeh said in a statement to reporters.
The prime minister, however, said that individuals working in health facilities, pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets would be allowed to go to their workplaces, and people wishing to go to one of those establishments would be permitted to do so.
Shtayyeh said the measures would be in effect for two weeks.
The PA had already seriously clamped down on the movement of people in the Bethlehem area, the epicenter of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the West Bank, though greater mobility was allowed in other places in the territory.
The PA, however, does not maintain control over several villages in the West Bank where Israeli authorities hold security responsibility under the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. The PA will need Israel’s cooperation to make sure Palestinians do not leave their homes in those areas.
Palestinian officials have said that Israel and the PA are closely coordinating their efforts to push back against the virus in the West Bank.
PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem told reporters on Sunday that Israel and the Palestinians were “coordinating at a high level to [keep it away] from us, them and the whole world.”
Palestinian authorities said that, as of Sunday, there were a total of 59 confirmed cases of the virus in the West Bank, 17 of whom have recovered.
Shtayyeh also said that all people returning from abroad would now be placed in quarantine facilities for 14 days near their hometowns.
The PA had previously only required people returning from a limited number of countries to be quarantined in special facilities, while allowing everyone else to isolate themselves in their homes.
A number of people in the West Bank who tested positive for the virus in the past week quarantined themselves at home. Milhem said last Thursday that some of them had broken their quarantine.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip did not immediately say whether they would abide by Shtayyeh’s directives.
The prime minister added that PA security forces would be deployed in cities and at their entrances. He also called on Arab Israelis not to move between Israel and the West Bank.
Arab Israelis often travel to the West Bank to purchase goods, attend events and visit family members.
Moreover, Shtayyeh demanded that Israel had provided “humane” living conditions for Palestinian laborers who were slated to spend the next month or two in Israel.
Israeli authorities agreed last week to allow tens of thousands of Palestinian workers to spend the coming month or two in Israel, with their employers finding places for them to sleep.
The Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday that some employers had given their workers inadequate and sparse accommodations.