Report: Israel Considering Imposing Quarantine on All of PA

Palestinian security forces wearing face masks block the entrance to the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala town, near Beit Lechem, Thursday. (Wissam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

With the emergence of coronavirus in several Palestinian Authority-controlled cities, Israel is considering imposing a quarantine closure on PA-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron, Kan News reported. The issue was already discussed at a special government meeting earlier in the week, but the decision has not been finalized yet.

The implications of such a closure on both Israel and the PA would be profound, the report said. Some 65,000 PA workers enter Israel every workday, and they perform a number of essential functions in the economy. Many work in construction, tourism, food, and other industries, and in some they form the backbone of the industry. The loss of those workers could cripple those industries, especially construction, where industry experts said could result in a construction freeze at 70% of the projects being built in Israel, the report said.

From the PA perspective, the income brought in by those workers constitutes a significant amount of the Authority’s GDP, and if those workers are stuck at home, it will have very negative ramifications for the PA economy, the report added.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday imposed a closure on Beit Lechem, over concerns on coronavirus infections. The quarantine of Beit Lechem will keep all individuals out of Israel, and those who attempt to cross security checkpoints will be turned away. The quarantine comes after the Health Ministry reported that a group of Greek tourists who visited Israel in February may have spread the virus. Several members of the group were found to have contracted the virus when they returned home. The group visited sites in northern and southern Israel, and spent a night in Beit Lechem, the Health Ministry said.