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PA arrests 4 for spreading ‘fake news’ on coronavirus 

March 11, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Palestinian police officers wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as they stand guard in Bethlehem, West Bank on 5 March 2020 [Wisam Hashlamoun / Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has arrested two residents accused of spreading fake news about the coronavirus in the West Bank.

The pair are suspected of recording an audio message announcing the discovery of new cases of the virus in the occupied city of Hebron.

A third Palestinian has been arrested for posting a fake comment on Facebook which claimed that 12 new cases had been detected in Nablus.

Another was arrested in Bethlehem for claiming their regions have been heavily infected by the coronavirus.

Commander of the PA Police in Bethlehem said that “Rumours are a lethal weapon that affects the morale of the people”.

Adding that the PA, security forces have instructions to arrest anyone who spreads rumours about the spread of coronavirus that may cause a state of panic among the population.

Bethlehem has witnessed the largest outbreak in the occupied West Bank, with the city’s Angel Hotel under quarantine. The city has reported 28 of Palestine’s 30 cases.

As a result of the outbreak, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency of 30 days, starting on 5 March, to stem the spread, including shutting borders and closing shops.

READ: Coronavirus cases rise to 58 in Israel

The measures include the closure of all coffee shops and weddings halls. While workers in Gaza City were pictured disinfecting a public park yesterday.

Approximately 2,900 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are currently in isolation, including 605 residents who recently returned from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon has taken similar steps, closing all restaurants and cafes across the country temporarily and disinfecting the parliament building yesterday.

The country has announced two deaths from coronavirus, and eight new cases, bringing the total to 61.

Rumours have circulated that high-ranking Hezbollah officials have contracted the novel virus, with the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, thought to have been under quarantine since meeting with Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani in February.

READ: Rights groups call on Egypt to release prisoners to combat coronavirus

Turkey reported its first case today, with hospitals reportedly on high alert for a potential outbreak.

A group of nine tourists, including their tour guide, from Hong Kong who visited Egypt have tested positive for coronavirus on their return.

Egypt has shut down prison visits for ten days, but has lifted the quarantine on a Nile cruise ship which has 45 confirmed cases on board.

While Bahrain has reported that 77 residents evacuated from Iran have tested positive for coronavirus.

Iran has confirmed 354 deaths, including five members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

READ: No coronavirus cases among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon