The Palestinian Authority has banned weddings, mourning tents and other gatherings and has taken steps to contain the main coronavirus outbreak in the occupied West Bank in months.
The Department of Health recorded an average of 1,074 infections daily for the past week, the highest seven-day average in the area since at least April. Severe cases of the virus have also risen, with the number of people hospitalized increasing more than sevenfold in the past month, according to ministry data.
The ban on gatherings is expected to come into effect on Monday. Officials had originally said it would start this week, but chose to postpone the date so that people who had already reserved wedding halls this weekend could celebrate, said Ghassan Nimr, a spokesman for the interior ministry.
Wedding room owners, who have closed their businesses for much of the pandemic, expressed frustration that they would have to close again.
“I have 20 employees: what should I tell them?” said Hanna Abu Alees, the owner of the Golden Roof Hall in Bethlehem. “Should I say go home and good luck finding a way to feed your family?”
Mr Abu Alees, 73, said he had tried to limit the spread of the virus at his facility by handing out masks and hand sanitizer at events and limiting attendance to 300 to 400 people, less than the 1,000 it can. contain.
Health Minister Mai al-Kaila suggested on Tuesday that the authority could take even stricter measures if the virus continues to spread widely.
“As the health minister, I cannot hold a mask for everyone and give everyone a mask,” Ms al-Kaila told government-run television. “In order not to close the country, let’s follow the guidelines,” she said, adding that vaccinations and social distancing are not “a big problem and it should be a matter of personal responsibility”.
While many Palestinians are skeptical about vaccination, the number of people in the West Bank receiving vaccinations has risen in recent weeks since the government announced that public sector workers who did not receive the injections would be put on unpaid leave until the end of the year. posted. pandemic. The Ministry of Transport has also said that people must present vaccination certificates in order to receive services such as driving license renewals or vehicle registration.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, more than 820,000 people in the West Bank, whose population is estimated to be around 2.75 million, have received at least one dose.