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Palestinians could see a return to the days of lockdown

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It’s been six months since the lives of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were brought to a standstill, when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the city of Bethlehem, and a full lockdown was imposed on the city, and soon after, the entire territory. 

Since then, Palestinians have been living between a number of lockdowns, spanning from complete closures of all non-essential businesses and bans on all movement, to occasional flying checkpoints set up by Palestinian security officials at major intersections and entryways. 

For the past few months, despite getting hit with a brutal second wave of the coronavirus, that was unfathomably worse than the first outbreak, there have been little to no lockdowns, and life has carried on normally, with things like mask mandates rarely ever enforced by the government. 

But now, as the number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 41,400 cases, it seems that a return to the initial days of full lockdowns and curfews could become a reality in the near future. 

Over the past few days Palestinian health and government officials have publicly floated the idea of bringing back a lockdown to deal with a recent surge in cases that has coincided with the reopening of schools across the territory. 

According to Wafa news agency, since the reopening of schools last month, the Ministry of Education has shut down 131 schools across Palestine due to the spread of the virus. 

In the past 24 hours alone, there have been more than 1,100 cases reported in the occupied Palestinian territory, while the number of recovered cases were less than half of that. 

It’s worth noting that for a number of weeks, the Ministry of Health was recording recovered cases at higher or equal rates to new cases of the virus, though that seems to have changed now. 

In a meeting with Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila and other health officials earlier this week, there were talks of a potential lockdown in the coming days, should the rate of infection continue to rise. 

On Sunday, Ghassan Nemer, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Interior spoke to the made statements describing the current rate of COVID-19 infection as “horrifying,” as he put the blame on the Palestinian public for not adhering to public health protocols. 

“In the event of a return to a full lockdown, it will have repercussions causing the shrinking of the economy, as well as the closure of schools,” Nemer said.

The fact that Israel has announced a three-week nationwide lockdown beginning on Friday has only added to speculation that Palestinian leaders will likely enact similar measures in the West Bank. 

Depending on how the PA chooses to enforce a potential lockdown, there’s no telling the kind of social unrest that could possibly arise, as people are still reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic and the first lockdown back in March. 

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