First Omicron cases hit Palestine, says health ministry
Three Omicron infections have been detected in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said Thursday - the first cases of the new Covid-19 variant to have been recorded in the Palestinian territories.
The three infected Palestinian citizens, from the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Hebron, and Toubas, had recently returned from abroad, health ministry spokesperson Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra told press.
“The three cases underwent the necessary tests in Palestinian laboratories and were found to be infected with the Omicron variant,” Al-Shakhra said.
“Our preventive medicine teams are currently scanning those who had contact with the patients to conduct necessary tests”.
More than 465,000 Covid cases have been logged in the occupied Palestinian territories since the start of pandemic, and almost 4,900 virus-related deaths, according to Palestinian health ministry records.
The Palestinian Authority announced a full lockdown at the onset of the pandemic, before gradually lifting restrictions - especially following the opening of borders by Israel.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced in August that the West Bank was facing a fourth wave of the coronavirus and declared a series of new measures to promote vaccination in schools and universities. In September, Palestinian education facilities resumed face-to-face classes.
The PA’s pandemic-related measures depend largely on Israel, who controls the borders and travel movement, besieges the Gaza Strip and directly controls much of the West Bank.
Israel last week reimposed a ban on foreign entry for until 22 December, despite having vaccinated around 78 percent of its population.
Neighbouring Jordan announced Thursday that it had recorded five new Omicron infections, bringing its cases of the new variant up to seven.