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Airport back to pre-pandemic stage for vaccinated travelers

DGCA backtracks on decision, allows unvaccinated expats to travel to Kuwait

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s airport opens today for people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time in two years – albeit with restrictions, while fully vaccinated travelers can travel with almost no constraints, in another sign that the country is inching closer towards a return to normal life.

As of today, passengers of all nationalities travelling to and from Kuwait International Airport must follow a set of regulations depending on their vaccination status. For fully vaccinated passengers, no PCR test is required prior to or on arrival, and they are no longer required to quarantine after arrival. Partially vaccinated passengers are not required to take a PCR prior to arrival but must quarantine for seven days, which can be ended with a negative PCR test done upon arrival.

On the other hand, unvaccinated passengers must carry out a PCR test not more than 72 hours prior to arrival. They must also quarantine for seven days and carry out a PCR test on the seventh day and can leave quarantine only if the result comes back negative. These procedures do not apply to children aged under 16, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.

An earlier announcement by the DGCA had caused controversy when it indicated that a Cabinet decision last Monday to allow people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or are partially vaccinated to travel to Kuwait applied only to Kuwaiti passengers. “All travel procedures and PCR exemptions are applicable to Kuwaitis and expatriates,” it said in a new circular on Friday, backtracking on their early decision in which it had said that only Kuwaitis can travel to Kuwait if not fully vaccinated.

With the new regulations in place, Kuwait International Airport is now open freely to expatriates, including residents and visitors, for the first time since the pandemic forced airport closures around the world more than two years ago. Furthermore, fully vaccinated travelers are now exempt from PCR and quarantine requirements, which gives hope that aviation traffic in Kuwait can return to pre-pandemic levels sooner rather than later. The new rules also come before a weeklong national holiday; usually one of the busiest times of the year for travel.

The Cabinet had decided on Monday to ease COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing unvaccinated people to enter malls and cinemas provided they produce a negative PCR test result valid for 72 hours. The Cabinet also agreed to reinstate employee capacity at state departments to 100 percent from March 13 and allow public transportation to carry passengers at full capacity. Mosques are allowed to end physical distancing, while indoor conferences and meetings are also allowed to take place. Social gatherings including weddings are also allowed indoors or outdoors provided health protocols are followed.

The Cabinet also announced that children under 16 who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 can enter schools without the need to bring a negative PCR test certificate, while only students who test positive or show symptoms must be isolated. On Jan 10, the Cabinet had adopted restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Kuwait, including reducing staff at state departments to 50 percent and urging the private sector to reduce staff as well, applying physical distancing at mosques, canceling in-person conferences and meetings and cutting public transportation passenger capacity to 50 percent.

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