Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a state of emergency on Thursday following the discovery of seven people suspected of carrying the deadly virus at a hotel near Bethlehem.
PA health ministry spokesman Dr. Tarif Ashur called for the public “not to panic” after seven suspected cases were discovered at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, a town next to Bethlehem.
“We took samples from Polish and American tourists staying in the hotel, as well as 21 employees. Most of them were tested negative, but we sent the samples to the Israeli side to confirm the results,” Ashur said.
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.
Wafa news agency reported that all schools, mosques, and churches in the city of Bethlehem were ordered to close on Thursday for 14 days amid fears of the virus spreading.
The closures include the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Jesus was born according to the Christian faith.
The Church of the Nativity is believed to receive some 10,000 tourists a day, and during the Easter season, the church receives approximately tens of thousands of visitors.
“We respect the authorities’ decision because safety comes first,” an unnamed church official told France24.