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U.S. church group in West Bank tests negative for coronavirus

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BEIT JALA, West Bank (Reuters) – Thirteen Americans quarantined in a West Bank hotel on suspicion of having caught the coronavirus have tested negative, a Palestinian official said on Sunday.

“The American tourists will leave either later this evening or tomorrow morning,” said Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government.

The group, from the 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Alabama, were placed in quarantine at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, which is next to Bethlehem, on Wednesday.

3Circle Church works with a school in Bethlehem, part of the reason for group’s visit to the Holy Land.

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 were turning foreigners back at checkpoints, while schools, colleges, kindergartens and national parks were closed.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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