United Cities and Local Governments Middle East and West Asia Section (UCLG-MEWA) hosted Mr. Nicola Khamis, Mayor of Beit Jala, as part of UCLG-MEWA Local Government Talks entitled “The Role of Local Governments in the Fight Against Coronavirus and Normalization” on September 23, 2020.

Mayor Khamis began his words by noting that Beit Jala was considered the center of the outbreak. He also talked about their experience of the first coronavirus cases in Beit Jala detected in a hotel after the departure of a tourist group to their country. In this sense, the municipality carried out all the necessary sterilization and quarantine operations for the hotel staff and visitors. They also closed the area and applied all safety measures issued by the World Health Organization and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Mr. Nicolas Khamis talked about the measures that were taken by the municipality to limit the spread of the virus, such as the formation of an emergency committee which encompasses all institutions in the city and is headed by the municipality, political organizations and security agencies. The municipality has worked to distribute food supplies and medicines to the infected citizens. In addition, a media team has been formed to spread awareness among citizens. He also added that despite the lack of resources, the municipality of Beit Jala was able to reduce the burden on citizens and limit the spread of the virus. The municipality also updated the financial data for citizens and activated online payment so that citizens do not need to go to the municipality.

The Mayor also talked about the impact of the pandemic on cultural activities and events in the city of Beit Jala, where all activities, including the annual Beit Jala International Peace Festival, were canceled. This has had adverse economic and psychological impact on citizens living in the Bethlehem province in general and the city of Beit Jala in particular. These activities are a source of income for citizens and serve as the gate of the city of Beit Jala opening to the world, especially to twin cities. Beit Jala has many twinning relationships with cities in Europe, Latin America and some Arab countries.

Mayor Khamis shed light on many burdens that Palestine faces due to the pandemic, especially that the country is economically and politically unstable even before the pandemic. Palestine needs substantial financial support to be able to overcome this crisis and with the least damage possible. He also touched upon the economic impact of the pandemic on Beit Jala, especially since the city depends financially on tourism sector, which has stopped working since the beginning of the crisis, in addition to its great impact on the available job opportunities and the wages of workers.

At the end of the talk, the Mayor expressed his gratitude to all citizens for their remarkable awareness during the crisis and asked them to cooperate with the health staff of the municipality of Beit Jala and the volunteers of the National Emergency Committee while carrying out their duties and adhering to the guidelines and public safety requirements. He also asked mayors around the world not to underestimate the crisis and to always be prepared to provide help to all those in need. He emphasized that this is their opportunity, like all municipalities, to prove their work and responsibilities towards all citizens.

Comments are disabled