09 March 2020 - 09:38
News ID: 449493
A
A US church group of 13 people have been stranded in a quarantined hotel near the occupied Palestinian town of Bethlehem on suspicion of being exposed to the Coronavirus during their trip and are coordinating with American and Palestinian officials in a desperate effort to return home.

RNA - “It was going to be the trip of a lifetime,” said 42-year-old Chris Bell, lead pastor of the 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Alabama, in a video chat with Reuters on Saturday from the second floor of the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, next to Bethlehem. “The 13 of us would be what I would call a community of faith.”

Things “went bad” for the group on Tuesday when they learned they had shared the hotel with a Greek tourist who apparently carried the Coronavirus, Bell said.

According to the report, after the group left the next morning for a trip they were called back to the hotel the next day and told to go into quarantine.

He further stated that they were awaiting test results and expected to be in quarantine for 14 days, meaning they still had to wait nine more days.

The pastor added that his group has not left its hotel floor and everyone wears gloves and masks when they leave their rooms, noting that his wife was with him but their three children in the US were being looked after by friends and family.

“Even if we need to be quarantined, we’re hoping that the United States, our own country, will possibly fly us home,” he emphasized. “And if they need to quarantine us there for a time we understand that. But, you know, we need to get home.”

According to the hotel’s owner, more than 40 workers and guests were placed in isolation in the building.

The report further cited an official of the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) as saying that she was aware of reports that the group is in quarantine but noted: “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further details to share.”

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

The Angel Hotel was the first area of Coronavirus concern in the Bethlehem area. After several of its workers tested positive this week, the Palestinian Authority put restrictions on foreign tourist travel and later declared a 30-day state of emergency.

The measures effectively shut down the city, including the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, and local mosques.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Palestinian security forces staffed checkpoints and turned foreigners away, while schools, colleges, kindergartens and national parks were ordered closed.

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