Covid-19 in Bethlehem: towards a new lockdown

Giacomo Pizzi7 July 2020

Covid-19 cases in Bethlehem and more generally in Palestine have been increasing worryingly for some weeks. The registered number today is 3,485, higher than in March, when the local authorities decided to isolate Bethlehem and declare a state of emergency for the Coronavirus. The opening of the Nativity Church on May 26th seemed to mark a slow recovery towards everyday life, which for Bethlehem meant taking small steps in a context of economic crisis and rising unemployment.

On Monday, June 29 and Tuesday, June 30, there was a first lockdown declared by the local Palestinian authorities that limited the movements between Bethlehem and the other countries of the Governorate and Palestine, to control the growing cases. Pharmacies and Supermarkets remain open but everything else is closed, including the Nativity Church, mosques and public and private offices. Our projects are experiencing some slowdowns, including projects dedicated to emergency areas, but we are aware that the thing to put first is the safety of our employees, collaborators, project beneficiaries and volunteers.

That is why we are waiting for everything to pass quickly. This is a new challenge that Bethlehem will have to face with a common concern about the precarious local healthcare system: it is well known that healthcare facilities will be able to cope with a wave of cases with only 50 beds in intensive care. A great unknown also concerns the local economy: how can it sustain a new decline considering that since March tourism and pilgrimages are still blocked? There are many unknowns that accompany this new period threatened once again by the virus.