Palestinian premier, with emergency powers, shuts down country for one month over corona


The Palestinian premier, in his efforts to fight the coronavirus, decided tonight to shut down the country for one month, the duration of the period President Mahmoud Abbas has earlier declared as an emergency period, starting at 8:00 am local time tomorrow morning.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, speaking on the official Palestine TV, said that based on the powers granted to him in the decree by President Mahmoud Abbas, he decided to shut down all educational facilities, all tourist and religious areas, national parks, and cancel all hotel reservations for foreign tourists.

At the same time, all national or international conferences planned in Palestine will be canceled.

He also stressed that movement between the Palestinian cities should only be done “in cases of extreme necessity,” especially in the governorate of Bethlehem where the first seven cases of coronavirus have originated.

Shtayyeh also said he was studying closing all crossings between Palestine and the rest of the world “as needed.”

All kinds of gathering, celebrations, demonstrations, and strikes have been prohibited throughout Palestine and each governor in his governorate was charged with implementing these procedures as security forces will be deployed to implement these decisions.

Media statements from any official except those authorized by the Prime Minister were also prohibited.

Minister of Health Mai Kaileh confirmed today that there are seven cases of coronavirus in Palestine, the first since the outbreak of the deadly virus.

She said at a press conference in Bethlehem that after examining 20 Palestinians suspected of having the disease who worked at a hotel in this southern West Bank city where a group of Greek tourists had stayed between February 23 and 27 and after some members of the group were tested positive after returning home, seven people have tested positive with the coronavirus disease.

The seven, she said, all Palestinians, were admitted to a quarantine set up in Jericho especially for corona cases where they will undergo treatment.

Bethlehem has declared a state of emergency immediately after reports of the discovery of coronavirus cases in the city even though confirmation came hours later after samples from the seven were sent to Israeli centers for further confirmation.

When the results came back positive, the health ministry decided to continue with the earlier measures that included quarantining Angle Hotel where the tourist stayed and the workers proved infected with the virus, closing all educational facilities in the city and nearby towns as well as closing churches, mainly the Nativity Church where Christ was believed born, and mosques for 14 days, and canceling all public and private events in the district where a large number of people gather at the same time.

All hotel reservations for tourists were also canceled and the annual Bethlehem marathon scheduled for later this month was also canceled. Public transportation was also fumigated.

The health minister said all measures will be taken to prevent the spread of the disease.