Covid-19: Hanan Ashrawi second senior Palestinian official to test positive

Report of infection comes days after PLO lead negotiator Saeb Erekat tests positive

Hanan Ashrawi, Member, Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has tested positive for Covid-19. 
Hanan Ashrawi, Member, Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has tested positive for Covid-19. 

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi on Sunday tested positive for coronavirus, making her the second high-ranking official to become infected in recent days.

Ms Ashrawi, 74, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, has cancelled all public engagement while she recovers.

There were no details of her condition, but the PLO department of diplomacy and policy shared the news, wished her a swift recovery and urged Palestinians to follow health precautions to halt the spread of the virus.

There are more than 54,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinian authorities have ordered lockdowns and closed offices. However, such efforts were hampered by the dire economic situation caused in part by Israel refusing to hand over tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, as well as the occupation.

Covid-19 in the Middle East

In May, President Mahmood Abbas severed security and other co-operation with Israel because of its threat to annex Palestinian lands, meaning that co-ordination on the care of patients, border supervision and other measures between Israel and Palestine stopped.

Israeli authorities confiscated tents intended for field hospitals, and the Wafa news agency reported in July that a Palestinian coronavirus testing centre at the entrance to Hebron was dismantled by Israel.

Ms Ashrawi is not the only senior Palestinian official to contract coronavirus.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Friday that he was suffering difficult symptoms after contracting coronavirus, but that things were under control.

Mr Erekat, 65, an MP from Jericho in the occupied West Bank, said on Twitter that he was in isolation and receiving medical treatment at home one day after he confirmed that he had caught the virus. He also cancelled all meetings and appointments. There is heightened concern about his condition because he had a lung transplant in the United States in 2017.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Mr Erekat attended a meeting of senior Palestinian officials four days before his announcement, and that Ms Ashrawi and Mr Abbas were also in attendance. There was no indication whether Mr Erekat was infectious at the time of the meeting, or if Ms Ashrawi was infected at the event.

In tweets on Friday, Mr Erekat said he was experiencing "difficult symptoms resulting from my lack of immunity as a result of lung transplantation". But he thanked well-wishers and said: "Things are under control, thank God".

Mr Erekat is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is one of the youngest members of its executive committee.

A member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, he has been one of the most high-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades, especially to international audiences.

A veteran negotiator and spokesman, he is one of the most senior advisers to Mr Abbas, and also served in senior positions under Mr Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat. His negotiating days date to the earliest public talks with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference during the US presidency of George HW Bush, when Mr Erekat was part of the PLO team that included Ms Ashrawi.

Updated: October 12, 2020 01:54 PM

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