15 Americans Held in West Bank Hotel Amid Fears of Coronavirus Infection

At least 15 U.S. citizens are being quarantined in a hotel near the West Bank city of Bethlehem after staff tested positive for the Coronavirus. The tourists have been told they must stay inside the Angel Hotel in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala for two weeks along with the other guests.

"There is a 15-member American delegation in the hotel. They are still there and they are being dealt with according to quarantine regulations like all the others who are there," Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told Reuters.

The hotel has been put in lockdown after a guest from Greece returned home and tested positive for the virus. Hotel employees have also since tested positive.

"My staff and I are inside the hotel," Maryana al-Arja, manager of the Angel Hotel, told The Media Line.

"The Americans left the hotel... but the Palestinian Tourism Police brought them back because they could not secure [another lodging] place."

Palestinian Authority Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Awawdeh added the ministry was "working rapidly and as fast as it can to test everyone and provide clear answers."

Thirteen of the U.S citizens involved in the lockdown were traveling as part of an Alabama-based church group.

"We want to go back to the U.S. as soon as possible, of course and we're frantically working on that," Pastor Chris Bell, of the 3Circle Church in Fairhope, told NBC.

"We're hoping that U.S. officials will help us get back. If they need to quarantine us back in the U.S., that's fine, but we would love to go back to the United States."

Bell added that hotel staff are treating the group well and that none of them have displayed any symptoms of Coronavirus.

"We trust God that he has a plan for us and he knows exactly where we are," Bell said. "He has not forgotten us."

Bethlehem
Palestinian men, one of them wearing a protective mask, walk out of a hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 6, 2020, following a lockdown on the biblical city, after the first Palestinian cases of the deadly coronavirus were discovered there. Musa AL SHAER / AFP/Getty

The 3Circle Church also thanked those helping the group in Bethlehem.

"Our team members in Bethlehem want to personally thank the Mayor of Beit Jaja, Nicola Khamis, for getting our team what they need," the church tweeted.

"We also want to thank the Angel Hotel staff & Palestinian authorities. They have been so generous & compassionate in this circumstance. So thankful!"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a 30-day state of emergency on March 5 as the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Bethlehem.
Abbas announced that Foreign tourists would be banned from West Bank hotels as a part of the precautions, as well as the closure of all schools.

The Angel Hotel and the U.S. embassy have been contacted for comment.

The map below, provided by Statista, shows the confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world.

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