PA says it may become stricter, after some broke quarantine then tested positive
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Coronavirus crisis

PA says it may become stricter, after some broke quarantine then tested positive

Government spokesman says moves could ‘go much further than what you are imagining’; Hamas run-Health Ministry says Gaza still free of infection but some 3,500 are in isolation

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

Palestinians bringing meals to quarantined people in Bethlehem on March 15, 2020. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)
Palestinians bringing meals to quarantined people in Bethlehem on March 15, 2020. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

The Palestinian Authority warned on Thursday that it could take more stringent measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus 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 in Ramallah, 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.

Since Palestinian health authorities confirmed the first cases in the West Bank in early March, PA Prime Minister Shtayyeh has announced the closure of schools and universities, the cancellation of all hotel reservations and conferences, the shuttering of tourist and religious sites and the banning of public gatherings and protests.

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.

A priest walks in the Church of the Nativity compound in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 8, 2020, after it came under lockdown two days ago as an emergency measure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Musa Al SHAER / AFP)

At the press conference, Milhem also announced three newly confirmed cases of the virus, including two students from Ramallah and Jerusalem who recently returned from studying in France and a person from Nablus who was in Egypt last week.

He did not clarify whether the student from Jerusalem lived within the Jerusalem municipality’s boundaries, but he said she was now at a medical facility north of Ramallah.

Palestinian authorities in Ramallah have said that, as of Wednesday, there were a total of 47 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank— 40 in the Bethlehem area and seven in other places; the condition of 20 cases has begun to improve.

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, there were still no confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Fifty-three tests carried out on persons for the virus all came back negative, Amid Mushtaha, an official in the ministry said on Thursday, according to the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center.

In addition, 787 people in Gaza were in 11 quarantine facilities around Gaza, and 2,708 others were isolated in their homes, the ministry said on Wednesday.

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