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Israel may shut off the West Bank to stop coronavirus spread

March 9, 2020 at 1:39 pm

Municipality workers with protective suits disinfect churches as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Ramallah, West Bank on March 07, 2020 [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett is considering closing off all Palestinian Authority-governed areas of the occupied West Bank to control the spread of the coronavirus, the Times of Israel has reported.

Bennett’s office said he requested a detailed assessment of the economic ramifications of such a closure, which will be presented to him in a meeting today.

During a press conference yesterday discussing how Tel Aviv was going to be combatting the virus, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel and the US would be developing solutions for the widespread screening of patients in order to detect the virus.

He said: “I would like to thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for their extraordinary cooperation with Israel.”

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He continued: “They have perhaps the finest people in the world dealing with this. Sandra Berks, who we spoke to today, the heads of the CDC: these are exceptional people. We can learn a lot from them. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to cooperate, especially on the technological solutions for widespread screening, and perhaps to get – as soon as we can – to home screening. I think this will change the situation, not only for the United States and Israel, but for the world.”

Netanyahu also said that the steps Israel has taken against the coronavirus “have proven themselves,” adding, “if we take further steps they will be applied to all countries.”

Following the discovery of seven cases of coronavirus in occupied Bethlehem last week, all entrances and exits to the area were closed to contain the disease. On Friday and Saturday, more people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of those infected to 19, reported Haaretz.

Residents have been critical of Israel and the Palestinian Authority taking stricter measures in the West Bank than within Israel; some believe this could be a measure by Israel to further stifle Palestinian movement.