August 8, 2020

Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem closes for fear of contagion of coronavirus

The Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem, cradle of Christianity, closed its doors today for fear of contagion of coronavirus after confirming several positives in a group of Greek tourists who had visited the occupied West Bank.

“Many people from all over the world have visited it and could have the virus, so we drink to close it to clean it. We still don’t know when it will be opened again,” Isa Thalhieh, Greco-Orthodox priest of the Nativity, told Efe.

After 4:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT) the last group of pilgrims left, who managed to enter before the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) decreed the closure of all educational institutions, churches and mosques in the city of Bethlehem.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health is now analyzing several hotel workers where Greek tourists stayed in Bethlehem and who had contact, for suspected contagion.

The ANP also suspended massive events and sports competitions and some of the prevention measures have been extended to the provinces of Nablus and Jericho.

The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism announced the restriction of the entry of tourists to the city of Bethlehem as of Friday and the cancellation of hotel reservations, less than a month before Holy Week begins when the city receives a high number of pilgrims visiting nearby Jerusalem.

Foreigners from countries with coronaviruses, including Spain, must undergo a two-week quarantine in order to access Palestinian territory, the same measure that Israel applies in its territory, closely connected by border crossings.

Israel is the one that controls the external borders of the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, so that every person who accesses has previously passed through Israeli territory, such as Greek tourists who have tested positive for conronaviruses.

The Israeli Ministry of Health confirmed that the group of travelers visited Israel and the West Bank at the end of February and was diagnosed with the disease upon returning to Greece.

The COGAT (Israel coordination office for activities in the Palestinian territories) announced cooperation with the ANP to prevent contagion.

In the occupied territory of the West Bank there are also about 430,000 Israelis in more than a hundred colonies.


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