JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a 30-day state of emergency on Thursday after coronavirus cases were reported in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

The decree was announced by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh hours after officials closed Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplaces of Jesus, and banned foreign tourists from West Bank hotels.

“We have decided to declare a state of emergency in all Palestinian areas to confront the danger of the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading,” Shtayyeh said, reading from the decree.

Shtayyeh said Abbas had given him full authority to oversee implementation, and that he had accordingly decided to close all schools, colleges and kindergartens and to cancel foreign tourist reservations.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Stephen Farrell)