With 67 new coronavirus cases, West Bank infections continue sharp rise
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With 67 new coronavirus cases, West Bank infections continue sharp rise

Surge concentrated around Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, with one village council issuing social media post pleading for officials to intervene

A worker of the Palestinian Bethlehem municipality in cooperation with the popular committee of Aida Refugee Camp sterilizes a street against coronavirus on June 25, 2020 in the Aida Refugee Camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem (Musa Al SHAER / AFP)
A worker of the Palestinian Bethlehem municipality in cooperation with the popular committee of Aida Refugee Camp sterilizes a street against coronavirus on June 25, 2020 in the Aida Refugee Camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem (Musa Al SHAER / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority said Saturday that 67 more people had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to 1,862.

Of those, 1,237 are active cases with 11 people in serious condition including two on ventilators, said PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila, according to the official Wafa news agency.

There were 1,162 active cases in the West Bank, the ministry said.

The statement from the PA Health Ministry did not say how many tests were carried out.

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announces a surge in cases in Hebron on June 17, 2020. (Courtesy: Wafa)

The West Bank has witnessed a concerning spike in cases over the past two weeks, with Palestinian health officials saying that they may be entering a “second wave,” and Monday seeing the highest single-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

To prevent the spread of the virus, social gatherings were banned across the West Bank last weekend, and two governorates — Hebron and Nablus — were placed under lockdown.

Hebron has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak, with 20 of Saturday’s new cases found in that district.

There were 33 people diagnosed in the Bethlehem district, where the governor has declared a two-day lockdown at the start of next week.

A social media post on Saturday from the council of Deir al-Hatab near Nablus said the village now had 100 cases and another 100 suspected, sending roughly 1,000 people into isolation.

“We appeal to [officials] for quick intervention. Otherwise we will be facing a real disaster,” the Arabic post read.

Mosques and churches are closed again across the West Bank and Palestinians were instead urged to pray at home. Public demand to pray in mosques caused friction between West Bank Palestinians and security forces during the previous lockdown.

Palestinians participate in a big rally to protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in Jericho on June 22, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

The ban on social gatherings, however, did not prevent Fatah from holding a major rally in the Jordan Valley against Israel’s plans to annex sections of the West Bank. Images from the demonstration showed little social distancing in evidence among the crowds.

The new wave of infections finds the West Bank in a more delicate position than during the previous lockdown in April and May. The PA is now in the grip of a major financial crisis and has been unable to pay its employees — whose wages constitute around 20 percent of Palestinian GDP — for weeks.

Earlier this month, Ramallah rejected the transfer of tax revenues it receives every month from Israel, which amounted to around 85% of its budget after the coronavirus crisis began in March. In April, it received double the usual cash transfer from the Israeli government, according to Palestinian Authority financial reports.

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