Coronavirus in KuwaitKuwait

2 deaths, 80 new cases; Hashem wants expats out

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The health ministry yesterday reported 80 new coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the last 24 hours, bringing total infections to 1,995, while two deaths were reported, bringing the total fatalities to nine. During its daily briefing, Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said 39 patients are in intensive care, 26 of them are in critical condition.

Those currently receiving treatment at hospitals reached 1,619 patients, Sanad said. The new death cases are of a 49-year-old Bangladeshi male and a 55-year-old Indian male – both were receiving treatment in intensive care units. Earlier yesterday, Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah announced the recovery of 62 patients, bringing the total to 367 recoveries.

MP Safa Al-Hashem yesterday called for ending what she described as “expat invasion” of state departments, saying it was time to restructure the public administration. “There is an internal invasion of all state departments by expats,” Hashem said on Twitter, demanding that “this requires restructuring the composition of the public administration”. Hashem’s remarks come amid what appears to be a campaign to reduce the number of expatriates in the country amid the spread of the coronavirus.

During the past few weeks, MPs have officially demanded that the government should utilize the coronavirus crisis to cut by more than half the number of expatriates, who currently number 3.3 million or 70 percent of the population. The lawmakers said expats should be made equal to the 1.5 million Kuwaitis by applying quotas based on nationality. At present, the overwhelming majority of expats hail from India, Egypt, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Hashem said Kuwaitis are currently doing what expats have been doing in government jobs and “things are running in the best way possible”. She also praised Kuwaitis who have volunteered at different facilities during the coronavirus crisis. She also recalled what she had proposed in the past to fire foreign advisors in government departments and ministries.

Meanwhile, MP Khaled Al-Otaibi yesterday called for redrawing Kuwait’s foreign policy with countries that are refusing to take back their nationals who are living illegally in Kuwait. He said the government should be aware that international post-coronavirus relations will change and Kuwait’s foreign policy should be part of that change, especially with countries that refuse to take back their nationals.

Kuwait has granted a one-month amnesty in April for foreign workers who have been living illegally in the country, and thousands of violators have accepted the offer. But some countries, mainly Egypt and India, appear to be reluctant to take back their nationals on coronavirus pretexts, although Kuwait is paying their airfare. Local sources however said India appears to be willing to resolve the standoff and is expected to accept its nationals early next month.

In the meantime, Kuwait continues today and tomorrow one of the biggest airlifts to repatriate up to 50,000 Kuwaitis from overseas. In the first phase, around 12,000 citizens will be repatriated. A majority of the returnees have been allowed to go home under house isolation, while more than a 100 have been sent to health ministry quarantines.

Minister of State for Municipality Affairs Waleed Al-Jassem said yesterday he asked municipality staff to take the necessary steps to reopen auto-repair shops at cooperative societies to allow people to fix their vehicles.

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