This week, Palestinian Tourism announced that they would be closing Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity over concerns of the coronavirus. The Church, believed to have been built on the traditional site of Jesus’s birth, is just one of the many prominent sites to close admit rising fears over the virus.

“We respect the instructions of the relevant authorities,” said Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to Catholic church officials in the Holy Land. “Safety comes first.”

There is possible suspicion that four Palestinians had caught the coronavirus. If confirmed, the four suspected COVID-19 cases would be the first in the Palestinian areas.

The Palestinian Authority’s tourism ministry also announced that foreigners would be banned from West Bank hotels during the busy Easter season, which draws thousands of visitors and worshipers. This is a huge blow to the town of Bethlehem, because the city and it’s businesses are very dependent on Christian visitors and tourists making the pilgrimage to the city.

“This affects us dramatically,” said Joey Canavati, manager of the 58-room Alexander Hotel in Bethlehem. “Our workers are essentially laid off for the next 14 days. We will be closed down completely. It destroyed our business from every perspective.”

Canavati said groups of tourists from the United States, Poland and Cameroon have already started canceling their bookings.

“We are in the peak of the season. Tourists are leaving and within days no single tourist will be in the city,” Palestinian tourism spokesman Jeres Qumsiyeh said

Just three months ago Bethlehem was hailing its best Christmas for two decades, the mayor and hoteliers said, even better than the 1.5 million visitors it received in 2018.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall, one of the holiest places for Jews, had no restrictions and the nearby Al Aqsa mosque compound was expected to welcome 50,000 worshipers for Friday prayers. However, Israel has already imposed the edict with regard to flights from Italy, China and Singapore.

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