A Palestinian man wearing a mask prays at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, after the Palestinian Authority suspended prayers inside of the mosque to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 15, 2020. (Photo: Muhammed Qarout Idkaidek/APA Images)
Muslim authorities shuttered the Al Aqsa mosque on Sunday until further notice leading many Palestinians to pray outdoor on the compound grounds and marking further measures to slow the advance of the novel coronavirus.
Last week, Palestinian officials took wide-ranging steps declaring a month-long state of emergency including closing schools and religious sites, and sharp restrictions on tourism. In the city of Bethlehem, the epicenter of the outbreak in the West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli officials began a lockdown on March 5, preventing entry and exit. All international visitors were ordered to vacate hotels, with the exception of 14 with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced Monday the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank jumped to 39, with 37 of the cases in the Bethlehem area and two in the northern city of Tulkarem.
In Gaza, no cases are reported. However, local officials built quarantine barracks near the Rafah border with Egypt and dispatched workers to spray disinfectants across crowded public areas and refugee camps.
Israel’s minister of health said Monday the number of confirmed cases jumped to 255 as the country continues to impose a series of strict measures, requiring self-quarantine for two weeks for all persons entering the country and banning travelers from seven countries including Hong Kong and Macau. At least 50,000 Israelis are in self-isolation. Further countrywide quarantine measures are expected this week.