14 Americans stuck in Bethlehem hotel; Palestinians declare Coronavirus state of emergency

Forty people inside the Angel Hotel, including 14 American citizens, remain in quarantine on site until further notice.

By World Israel News and Agencies

The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Bethlehem, Jericho and the Jordan Valley following the discovery of the first cases on coronavirus in the PA-run areas.

Fearing the spreading of the virus, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced the closure of Bethlehem, restricting entry to and exit from the city.

Palestinian officials closed the famous Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem indefinitely over fears of the new coronavirus, weeks ahead of the busy Easter holiday season.

The Church was closed after suspicions that four Palestinians had caught the virus, prompting a flurry of measures that included banning all tourists from the Palestinian-ruled areas for an unspecified amount of time and shutting down other places of worship in Bethlehem for two weeks.

The Palestinian health ministry later said a total of seven Palestinians from Bethlehem have tested positive for the virus, the first cases reported in the Palestinian-administered territories.

It said the seven worked at a hotel where a group of Greek tourists stayed during a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories in late February. The tourists tested positive for the virus after returning to Greece.

In the meantime, the 40 people inside the Angel Hotel, including 14 American citizens, remain in quarantine on site until further notice.

“The Americans left the hotel this morning, but the Palestinian Tourism Police brought them back because they could not secure [another lodging] place,” hotel manager Maryana al-Arja told Media Line over the phone on Thursday.

“The American [guests] are aware of the situation and are in contact with their country’s embassy,” she said.

The Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, where the suspected cases came from, has now been converted into an isolation facility, and the Palestinian Authority is taking precautions in light of the many tourist groups arriving in Bethlehem.

The PA ordered a halt on the reception of tourists in the hotels in the cities of Bethlehem and Jericho for 14 days as well as the closure of all educational institutions. It also banned all public events planned in these areas, including prayers in mosques and churches.