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Palestinians impose ban on movements in West Bank

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Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday imposed a two-week ban on all non-essential movements to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases in the occupied West Bank hit 57.

"People will have to observe a compulsory 14-day quarantine at their homes as of 10:00 pm (2000 GMT)," it said a statement carried by the official WAFA news agency.

The restrictions announced by Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh exclude "those working in healthcare centres, bakeries, pharmacies and grocery stores," the statement added.

"Residents of villages and refugee camps will not be allowed to commute to city centres," it said.

In Ramallah on Sunday, after the new measures were announced, supermarkets had long queues with people bulk buying goods, an AFP journalist said.

Smaller shops are expected to close Sunday night for at least two weeks.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967 and exercises full control over access to the territory.

Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, communities considered illegal under international law.

Thousands of Palestinians are employed in them and Israel said last week that those workers would still be allowed to enter and leave daily.

But Shtayyeh reversed that policy, saying "workers at Israeli settlements shall not be allowed to continue to work there during the emergency period."

The Palestinian Authority had previously warned about possibly high numbers of coronavirus cases in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israel has 945 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The tightened West Bank restrictions came after the first two cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Gaza, ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

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