Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas Reuters

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared a 30-day state of emergency on Thursday after coronavirus cases were reported in Bethlehem, Reuters reported.

The decree was announced by PA cabinet leader Mohammed Shtayyeh hours after officials closed Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplaces of Jesus, and banned foreign tourists from local hotels.

"We have decided to declare a state of emergency in all Palestinian areas to confront the danger of the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading," Shtayyeh said, reading from the decree.

He added that Abbas had given him full authority to oversee implementation, and that he had accordingly decided to close all schools, colleges and kindergartens and to cancel foreign tourist reservations.

The PA “health ministry” had said earlier that seven cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the Bethlehem area south of Jerusalem.

"They are now being treated in quarantine," a statement from “health minister” Mai al-Kaila said.

"We have decided to prevent the entry of tourists for a period of 14 days and to prevent hotels in all cities from receiving foreigners," PA “tourism minister” Rula Maayah told the AFP news agency.

On Thursday evening, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the closure of Bethlehem over concerns of the coronavirus in the city.

Under the order, movement of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs into and out of the city is prohibited.

The closure took effect Thursday evening and will be in effect until next Thursday evening.