US tourists quarantined in Bethlehem hotel over disease outbreak scare

Bethlehem is on lockdown with US tourists confined to their rooms after hotel guests tested positive for coronavirus.

A total of 15 Americans have been quarantined at the Angel Hotel as part of precautions against COVID-19, a Palestinian government spokesman said on Saturday.

The city in the occupied West Bank has been in lockdown since cases of the virus were recorded there on Thursday.

So far 22 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Palestine and 21 in Israel, of which everyone has recovered. No people are reported to have died yet.

Some of the first cases there in Palestine were reported among staff at the Angel Hotel.

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On Saturday, spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said a group of US visitors were in isolation in the building without going into further details on their condition.

An official from the US embassy in Jerusalem said it was aware of the reports.

"Due to privacy considerations, we have no further details to share," she added.

Palestinian security forces wearing masks and gloves were stationed around the hotel on Saturday as they have been since the first cases were announced.

"There is a 15-member American delegation in the hotel. They are still there and they are being dealt with according to quarantine regulations like all the others who are there,'' Melhem added.

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Authorities have put restrictions on travel in and out of the city and turned away tourist busses. They have also closed the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, and shut schools.

The virus, which was first recorded in China in December, has spread across the Gulf region and beyond with 102,469 official cases recorded worldwide – but the real number is believed to be much higher.

Two elderly UK citizens died of the condition, with the UK government working to contain the spread with a public health campaign.

The epidemic has claimed 3,491 lives and infected 102, 469 people in 90 countries worldwide, including 164 in the UK.

The number of cases in mainland China, where the virus originated are said to be slowing down, but spreading elsewhere.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called the spread of the virus "deeply concerning" as a new wave of countries reported on COVID-19 virus on Saturday.

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In line with the World Health Organisation advice, people are being urged to "regularly and thoroughly clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water".

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People are also urged to "maintain at least 1m distance" with anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

  • Coronavirus

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