QUARANTINE - DAY 6 - 11th March 2020
Today, on the day the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, a man in quarantine in the Angel Hotel, Beit Jala was allowed to leave briefly, dressed in a full isolation outfit in order to say his last farewell to the body of his mother who had died of a heart attack in the Dheisha refugee camp, Bethlehem. A van carrying the body was brought close to the hotel so he could enter it and say goodbye. He will not be able to attend the funeral.
Separately, a mother and writer recounts her day:
Bethlehem quarantine is in its sixth day and here at home, we are apprehensive: my daughter has been exposed to the virus through one of her students. Last Wednesday, she was informed about the possibility of one of her students being infected and was told to stay put until further confirmation. The next day, she received the confirmation and was told to expect a phone call to schedule the test that she and other students who were in contact with the young man were supposed to take. Whatever the case, she was instructed to stay at home for the next two weeks. Four days passed and she did not receive any call. Yesterday morning she called one of the hotlines and was told to expect the Ministry of Health’s team, who would call on us later in the day.
There is little serious information about the disease and in the absence of any clear directives to adhere to, rumors are rampant. The social media, for better or worse, are contributing to these rumors and fear amongst the population is growing. Some people have stocked up on antibiotics while others are betraying a disquieting level of indifference: it can’t get any worse for us (meaning Palestinians) and everything from God is good.
Unlike myself, my daughter has been reading up on the virus since the epidemic first hit, and since her exposure to the contaminated student has kept a cool head and is awaiting patiently her turn for the test. Meanwhile, we’ve been very careful, staying mostly at home, avoiding unnecessary exposure, frequently washing our hands and sanitising them with high-grade alcohol gel, and avoiding touching our faces, particularly the mouth and nose area. There is nothing more we can do. We have also been taking vitamin C tablets and keep a rehydrating solution at hand just in case.
We’ve had our share of curfews, closures, incursions and so on and Bethlehem once again presents a scenario out of a dystopian film. With so many people relying on tourism, the pinch of the economic fallout is already being felt and is looming large in people’s conversations along with speculation about the epidemic. The cancellations have started and many of my friends working in tourism feel terrible for having to lay off some of their employees. “Our wobbly economy will be hard hit but with the onset of a global recession, redressing the balance will take longer and will be much more painful” confirmed one such friend.
Yesterday evening, we waited for the people from the Ministry of Health, but no one showed up. My daughter will have to make another call and insist on having the test, but it might take days before another appointment is scheduled. This morning, my patience is overstretched to the limit, and as I watch her composure with skepticism, I also try to stay composed and slather more emollient on my chapped hands. "