Palestine prepares for Eid holidays as COVID-19 cases soar

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It’s the week before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and the streets of Palestine were bustling today. 

In the city of Bethlehem, people crowded clothing stores and gift shops, preparing for what is one of the biggest days of the year for Muslims around the world. 

Streets were packed with traffic, and restaurants were filling up after days of COVID-19 closures. 

The scenes in the city almost made it seem like any other week before Eid. But this week, Palestine surged past 13,000 coronavirus cases, nearing nearly 14,000 by Tuesday evening. 

In the past 24 hours, 481 new cases of the virus were recorded in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. 

Among the 481 new cases, 222 cases were recorded in the Jerusalem district, while 180 were recorded in the Hebron district. New cases of the virus were recorded in 10 out of the 11 governorates in the West Bank. 

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll rose to 82 after a 56-year-old man from the Hebron district was announced dead late Tuesday evening. 

The number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine has increased rapidly over the past month, and there’s no sign of the virus slowing down. Just last week, Palestine surpassed 10,000 cases, with thousands of new cases being reported since. 

With the coming of the Eid holidays this weekend, Palestinian officials are worried that celebrations could further worsen the already brutal wave of the virus.

It was around two weeks after the Eid al-Fitr holidays at the end of May when the second wave of the virus began picking up across the territory, following days worth of celebrations and family gatherings. 

In an effort to avoid an Eid-weekend resurgence, the Palestinian Authority announced that they would be enforcing a closure across the West Bank beginning on Friday evening and ending on Sunday morning, excluding pharmacies and bakeries. 

PA spokesman Ibrahim Melhem did say, however, that the government would be permitting Eid prayers at mosques, so long as they do not exceed 15 minutes, and “abide by the protective precautionary measures” — though it remained unclear how the government planned on enforcing those rules. 

In the meantime, the ban on all weddings, funerals, and other social gatherings have remained in place, given the fact that the source of infection for nearly 70% of cases in the West Bank has been traced back to social gatherings. 

But even with the current efforts in place, given how busy Palestinian shops and markets were today, there’s no telling if Palestine is going to be able to flatten the curve any time soon.