Bethlehem announces second lockdown as fresh covid-19 cases emerge


The governor of Bethlehem announced Saturday the temporary closure of the Palestinian city to contain the spread of coronavirus, after a sharp rise in infections in the West Bank.

The 48-hour closure will begin Monday from 6:00 a.m. (0300 GMT), governor Kamil Hmeid said in a statement.

The closure comes after the West Bank cities of Hebron and Nablus were closed last week for five days and 48 hours respectively. The two cities, alongside Bethlehem, have recorded a major spike in new coronavirus cases.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry announced 67 new cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness on Saturday, of which 33 were in the Bethlehem district.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem stands at 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.

Like the West Bank, Israel has also recorded a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

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Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, was initially put into lockdown in March, after recording the first coronavirus case in the West Bank.

Schools were closed and non-essential travel and activities were banned that month, as part of the efforts to tackle the virus.

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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