PA repurposes West Bank hospital for virus cases after infected man visits site
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PA repurposes West Bank hospital for virus cases after infected man visits site

Thabet Thabet is the sole government hospital in Tulkarem; official says carrier walked through several sections of the medical facility

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

Palestinian Authority security forces and an elderly man standing near the entrance to the Thabet Thabet Government Hospital in Tulkarem on April 5, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority security forces and an elderly man standing near the entrance to the Thabet Thabet Government Hospital in Tulkarem on April 5, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry decided on Sunday to repurpose the Thabet Thabet Government Hospital in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem for coronavirus cases after an infected man entered the medical facility, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Patients seeking care at the hospital for reasons unrelated to the virus will be instructed to go to other medical institutions, the Wafa report said.

Earlier on Thursday, Kamal al-Shakhra, the director-general of primary care in the PA Health Ministry, told a press conference in Ramallah that the man infected by the virus who entered the hospital had walked through several of its wards.

“He caused some confusion for us,” the Health Ministry official said, noting that he was from Bartaa, a village in the Jenin area.

Shakhra said while the man had been suffering from “ordinary inflammations” and “heart problems” for over a week, he only recently came to the hospital where he received a test for COVID-19.

Thabet Thabet is the sole Palestinian government hospital in Tulkarem, which is located near the border between Israel and the West Bank.

Footage posted on Facebook from outside the hospital early Sunday afternoon showed PA security forces blocking the entrance.

Palestinian medical professionals standing near the entrance to the emergency room at the Thabet Thabet Government Hospital in Tulkarem on April 5, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

Thus far, Palestinian authorities have said 226 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been infected by the virus, including 21 who recovered and one who died.

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.

For more than a week, Palestinian officials have 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,” Shakhra told reporters last Thursday.

Over 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.

On Friday, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said 45,000 workers would return to the West Bank when Passover begins. The holiday starts the evening of 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.

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