Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines arrive in West Bank

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The Palestinian Authority Thursday received 10,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in the West Bank, while the Hamas Islamists who control Gaza relaxed restrictions aimed at stemming coronavirus transmission.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority had already begun vaccinating health workers on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank after receiving 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from Israel.

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But the PA has said the bulk of its vaccinations will be carried out with stocks it has procured from at least four international providers.

The first shipment of the Russian-made product landed at Israel's Ben Gurion airport earlier Thursday, before being transferred to the West Bank, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The Palestinian health ministry "thanked" Russia for the vaccines, saying in a statement it would enable the inoculation of "5,000 Palestinian citizens".

The Palestinian Authority is expecting some two million doses ordered from various manufacturers, in addition to vaccines from the UN-backed COVAX programme, set up to help less wealthy nations respond to the pandemic.

Some 109,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have been infected with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,337 of them fatally, out of a population of 2.8 million, according to official data.

In the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, controlled by Hamas since 2007, some 52,000 cases have been recorded, including 527 deaths.

The Islamist group on Thursday announced an easing of the restrictions imposed in December to combat a spike in cases.

"The nighttime curfew is now lifted, as are restrictions on going outside on Friday and Saturday," Hamas' interior ministry said in a statement.

It called on Gazans to "continue to uphold personal protective measures", notably wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

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