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PA announces West Bank lockdown as virus numbers soar

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Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday announced a five-day lockdown across the West Bank after total confirmed coronavirus infections in the territory more than doubled following the easing of previous restrictions.

"Starting from Friday morning, all governorates of the West Bank... will be closed for a period of five days," government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said, adding that pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets were exempt.

The latest data from the Palestinian ministry of health said that as of Wednesday morning, a total of 2,636 people had tested positive for COVID-10 since the illness was first recorded in the West Bank, compared with just 1,256 a week ago.

Last week, after the easing of a previous coronavirus lockdown in late May, Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila said the territory had entered a second wave of infections "more dangerous than the first".

Most infections were traceable to Palestinians working in Israel or Arab Israeli visitors to the West Bank, Kaila said.

There have been seven deaths from the virus in the territory.

Israel has also recorded a surge, with 25,547 confirmed cases on Wednesday morning, up around 15 percent from a week earlier.

The Palestinian Authority imposed a full West Bank lockdown after the first coronavirus cases were identified on 5 March, lifting it at the end of May.

A public health state of emergency was reimposed for 30 days from early June.

Bethlehem was closed from Monday morning after a major spike in COVID-19 infections.

The cities of Hebron and Nablus were also already under lockdown.

Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians travel to work in Israel as day labourers and Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has urged them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Those who are temporarily staying in Israel have been asked not to return home for the time being.

Arab Israelis -- descendents of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948 -- have also been asked to avoid visiting.

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