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U.S. church group heads back from Holy Land after virus scare: Palestinian mayor

Reuters , Monday 9 Mar 2020
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Thirteen Americans were heading home from the Holy Land on Monday after they were cleared in a coronavirus scare, the mayor of the Palestinian town where they were quarantined said.

The group, from the 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Alabama, was placed in quarantine at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala on Wednesday after several hotel staff there tested positive.

Beit Jala is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near the biblical city of Bethlehem.

The Americans' quarantine ended after they tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday.

Beit Jala Mayor Nicola Khamis told Reuters they left on Monday for Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv, to fly on to the United States. A Reuters witness saw the group, at least one of them wearing a surgical mask, boarding a van in Beit Jala.

Twenty-five Palestinians in the West Bank have been confirmed as infected with coronavirus, 24 of them in the Bethlehem area.

Under a 30-day state of emergency declared by the Palestinian Authority, foreigners have been turned back at checkpoints and schools, colleges, kindergartens and national parks ordered closed.

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