The number of new coronavirus infections in the West Bank has significantly risen again, after tough rules had led to a decline at the beginning of the year.

The Health Ministry reported 1,626 new cases and 14 deaths on Monday, compared to a few hundred daily cases in early January.

 Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said the increase was due to the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants, especially the one first identified in Britain.


She said the health system could become overburdened, as more than 85 per cent of beds in special coronavirus hospitals were already occupied and more than 60 per cent of ventilators currently in use - a record number.


Experts said the increase was also due to the reopening of schools in February. As a consequence, Palestinian authorities announced a return to remote learning on Saturday.


Around 4 million people live in the West Bank. At present, a strict lockdown is in force on weekends. During the week, a curfew is in place only at night, though rules are not being enforced properly.


The vaccination campaign began in early February, though only very few doses have been administered.