Palestinian workers allowed back into Israel as virus restrictions eased
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Palestinian workers allowed back into Israel as virus restrictions eased

Some 14,500 workers enter Sunday, but will be required to sleep in Israel to avoid possible spread of COVID-19 to West Bank

Palestinian medical employees disinfect Palestinian workers who came back from working in Israel at the entrance to the West Bank village of Hussan, on March 29, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Palestinian medical employees disinfect Palestinian workers who came back from working in Israel at the entrance to the West Bank village of Hussan, on March 29, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In another sign that the coronavirus crisis is receding, the Defense Ministry reopened Israel’s economy to Palestinian workers on Sunday.

Some 14,500 workers entered Israel from the West Bank Sunday morning, out of 39,000 total permits granted by Israeli authorities.

The workers are returning to jobs frozen for over a month, after the West Bank and much of Israel’s economy went into lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The jobs are mainly in construction, agriculture and industrial plants.

The move comes after Israeli and Palestinian officials reached an agreement that includes a provision that Israel will supply the workers with protective gear, including face masks and gloves.

A Palestinian Authority health worker sprays disinfectant at the Tarqumiya checkpoint with Israel on March 25, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The new permits are valid until the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which this year begins on May 23, a trial period during which health officials will track the spread of the virus to determine whether the easing of restrictions can continue.

To limit the virus’s potential spread, the workers will not be allowed to return to the West Bank each night, but will be required to sleep for several days at a time in Israel.

Israel has reported more than 16,000 cases and 223 deaths. More than half of those infected in Israel have recovered. The Palestinian Authority has reported nearly 330 cases and two fatalities.

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