Five new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed Wednesday in Beit Ula, a small village northwest of Hebron, the Palestinian health ministry reported.
“The coronavirus is not over yet. Now is the stage at which we must coexist with the coronavirus while we adopt the necessary preventative measures, and our people are conscious of such measures,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila in a statement announcing the cases.
PA health ministry medical services director Osama al-Najjar told The Times of Israel that the five cases were already in quarantine by the time they were diagnosed, and that there is no evidence of community spread.
“These five cases were exposed by infected workers who returned from Israel almost two weeks ago,” al-Najjar said. He added that they were nearly all members of the same family.
The new cases were the first confirmed infections in five days in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, bringing the total number of cases in the territory to 373.
Coronavirus restrictions have eased substantially across the West Bank over the last two days, with courts, government offices, shops, mosques and churches resuming normal operations.
The lockdown — especially the strict curfew declared over the Eid al-Fitr holiday earlier this week — had provoked tensions across the West Bank. Hundreds of residents in several cities demonstrated for the right to pray in public mosques, which the PA had shut down as part of its bid to reduce the spread of the virus.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh previously announced his willingness to reinstitute tighter social distancing policies in the event of new infections.
“If, God forbid, we see further infections, we are prepared to bring back all of the restrictions,” he said in a press conference in Ramallah on Monday.
Shtayyeh did not say what magnitude of contagion would bring the Palestinian Authority to renew the restrictions in the West Bank.
Asked to clarify what would require putting a lockdown back into place, al-Najjar indicated that community spread would be the deciding factor.
“Since we know the source of these infections, there is no reason to be concerned [of a wider outbreak],” he added. “But if we begin to see cases without a clear origin, that will be serious cause for concern.”