Life came to a standstill in all West Bank cities and towns today as the curfew and strict lockdown Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has declared yesterday in order to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease, Covid-19, went into effect since 10:00 p.m. last night.
Shops were shuttered, except for the essential ones, and streets were almost empty of people and motorists as police barricades on the roads checked papers of those moving around to make sure they have been exempted from the lockdown.
The prime minister said in a televised speech yesterday that the strict measures were important to keep people home, an important step to stop the spread of the pandemic that has so far claimed lives of thousands of people around the world.
The decision to impose around-the-clock curfew on all cities and towns came as world governments saw in this step as the most effective one to prevent the rapid spread of the disease by keeping people off the streets and in their homes.
Schools and universities, theaters, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, events halls and all places where people gather have been shuttered since Palestine has declared a state of emergency on March 5 to fight coronavirus 5 following the discovery of the first seven cases in Bethlehem of people who were in contact with foreign tourists visiting the cradle of Christianity, the birth city of Jesus Christ.
Since then, all hotels were closed as tourists had left the city and all hotel bookings were cancelled.
Palestine reported 59 cases of confirmed coronavirus cases so far, most in the southern biblical city of Bethlehem where 17 confirmed cases have since then recovered, followed by Ramallah with 10 cases. The Gaza Strip had its first two cases yesterday of Palestinians returning home from Pakistan.
“Today, I refer to the decree issued by President Mahmoud Abbas on 05/03/2020 to declare a state of emergency in The State of Palestine to combat the threat of the Corona Virus Outbreak, and upon the powers granted to me as the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior, in coordination with the related parties in the Security Forces and the National Emergency Committee, and under the directions and supervision of His Excellency President Abbas, I hereby declare the following set of new strict precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19,” said Prime Minister Shtayyeh in his televised speech yesterday, in which in announced the following measures:
- Movement between governorates shall be banned.
- Residents of villages and refugee camps shall be banned from reaching city centers, except for emergency reasons.
- All citizens shall be prohibited from leaving their homes according to the mandatory quarantine, as of 10:00 PM on 22/30/2020, except:
- Health facilities and employees, who may provide and show a proof of their IDs.
- Bakery Shops.
- Grocery stores.
- Gas and fuel stations.
- Municipal services, water and electricity service facilities.
- All Palestinian citizens coming back from abroad shall be placed under a mandatory quarantine for a period of 14 days in quarantine centers in their governorates.
- Banks shall work under a state of emergency, and employees may provide a proof of their IDs and/or employee badges.
- Workers in settlements are strictly forbidden from reaching their workplaces inside settlements.
- We call upon Israel to provide humanitarian conditions for workers who stay overnight in their workplaces.
- We call upon Israel, as an occupying power, to assume its responsibilities towards our citizens in the city of Jerusalem, and from our side we will assume our responsibilities towards our citizens there.
- We hold the occupying power responsible for protecting the prisoners and we call for an immediate release of those who are sick, children and women.
- In light of our request to our citizens to stay in their homes, we call on our families in the 1948 lands not to move between Palestinian territories and/or in their place of residence inside the 1948 lands.
- All directorates of ministries in governorates shall be closed, except Health, Finance, National Economy, Social Development and Civil Affairs directorates.
- Security forces and police, and the rest of security services, will be deployed in various city centers and entrances in order to preserve public security and implement full procedures. Whoever violates the procedures exposes himself to the declared penal code.
- We assure our citizens that all supplies are available in sufficient quantities.
- The duration of these procedures is 14 days from its date, and we shall follow up on the evolution of events every day.
Following hearing these decisions, people rushed to shops to get their supplies of food and medicine in preparation for possibly a long stay at home.