Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Palestinian Authority announces West Bank lockdown

Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers would be exempt from the two-week quarantine

Palestinians load relief goods on a truck in the West Bank City of Nablus to be sent to Bethlehem city, 15 March 2020. EPA
Palestinians load relief goods on a truck in the West Bank City of Nablus to be sent to Bethlehem city, 15 March 2020. EPA

The Palestinian government on Sunday ordered Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank confined to their homes for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

The order, announced by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on television, goes into force at 10pm (2000GMT). Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers would be exempt, he said.

The Palestinian Authority stepped up anti-coronavirus measures, banning all movement between governorates, imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine and closing ministries.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the following moves:

· A 14-day lockdown from 10pm March 22 preventing anyone leaving their homes except in cases of emergency. Health professionals, bakers, pharmacists, grocery store workers and bank staff are exempt in order to work.

· All arrivals in the occupied territories will be placed under 14-day quarantine at a specialised centre run by the health ministry in each district.

· Residents of villages and refugee camps banned from travelling into city centres.

· Banks to operate emergency systems with employees reminded to carry ID cards with them during their commute.

· Suspending workers who are employed in Israeli settlements.

· All government ministries and offices to shut except the ministries of Health, Social Development, National Economy, and Civil Affairs.

· The Palestinian National Security, the civil police and the other security services to deploy inside and at the entrances to cities and towns to maintain public order.

The Palestinian Authority called on Israel to provide accommodation to Palestinians working in Israel who will be barred from returning to the occupied territories during the 14-day period.

The Prime Minister also called on Israeli authorities to provide protection to the Palestinian political prisoners in its jails as well as work to release them, especially the sick prisoners, women and minor prisoners.

It comes after Gaza announced its first two cases on Saturday evening.

The two Palestinian men, both in their 30s, tested positive for the virus after returning from Pakistan via Egypt late on Saturday and were being held in a quarantine areas set up in the border town of Rafah, the Gaza health ministry said.

They were in stable condition, it said.

"Thank God, the circle of contact wasn't big," Salama Marouf, chairman of the Gaza government media office, said.

All those who were in contact with the two men had also been quarantined, he said, without immediately giving a number.

Schools, public markets and event halls have all been shut in Gaza over the past two weeks to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

The coastal enclave, measuring 375 square kilometres (145 square miles) is home to around two million Palestinians.

An Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, has restricted cross-border movement for years, amid security concerns following the 2007 takeover of Gaza by the Islamist militant group Hamas.

Updated: March 22, 2020 08:04 PM

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