The Palestinian Authority has banned weddings, mourning tents and other gatherings, taking measures to stem the most significant outbreak of the coronavirus in the occupied West Bank in months.
An average of 1,074 infections have been recorded daily over the past week by the Health Ministry, the highest seven-day average in the territory since at least April. Serious cases of the virus have also jumped, with the number of hospitalized people increasing more than sevenfold in the past month, according to ministry data.
The ban on gatherings is scheduled to come into effect on Monday. Officials had originally said it would begin this week, but elected to postpone the date to allow people who had already reserved wedding halls this weekend to celebrate, said Ghassan Nimr, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
Wedding hall owners, who have closed their businesses for much of the pandemic, expressed frustration that they would need to close once again.
“I have 20 employees: What am I supposed to tell them?” said Hanna Abu Alees, the owner of the Golden Roof Hall in Bethlehem. “Should I say go home and good luck finding a way to feed your families?”
Mr. Abu Alees, 73, said he had been trying to limit the spread of the virus at his facility by distributing masks and hand sanitizer during events and capping attendance at 300 to 400 people, less than the 1,000 it can hold.
Health Minister Mai al-Kaila suggested on Tuesday that the authority could enact even more restrictive measures if the virus continues to spread widely.
“As the health minister, I can’t hold on to a mask for everyone and give a mask to everyone,” Ms. al-Kaila told government-run television. “In order to not close the country, let us follow the guidelines,” she said, adding that vaccinations and social distancing are not “a big deal and it should be a matter of personal responsibility.”
While many Palestinians have expressed skepticism about getting vaccinated, the number of people in the West Bank receiving inoculations has risen in recent weeks since the government announced that public sector employees who did not get the shots would be placed on unpaid leave until the end of the pandemic. The Transportation Ministry has also said that people must present vaccination certificates to receive services like renewing licenses or vehicle registration.
More than 820,000 people in the West Bank, whose population is estimated to be about 2.75 million, have received at least one dose, according to Health Ministry statistics.