By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The ministry of health yesterday reported 55 new coronavirus cases, raising the number to 1,355 cases. A new death was also reported of an 80-year-old Kuwaiti woman, raising the total number of deaths to three. Of the 1,176 cases receiving treatment, 26 are in intensive care units, nine of them in critical condition. The ministry also reported 26 new recoveries, raising the number to 176 recoveries, adding as many as 1,739 people have been discharged from quarantines.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah said on Monday after a Cabinet meeting that at least 10 Kuwaiti citizens have died abroad after being infected with coronavirus. A number of other deaths were reported but it has not been established if it was from the virus. The minister provided no further details.
The interior ministry said yesterday that 40 people have been referred to the public prosecution for violating the partial nightly curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A majority of those referred are believed to be citizens, as most expats violating the curfew are normally deported. The ministry said that the prosecution released a number of those referred on a KD 1,000 bail each, adding that some of those were arrested at wedding parties, which are banned by the government.
Meanwhile, the civil aviation authority has eased restrictions on a ban on commercial passenger flights after allowing Qatar Airways to operate two flights a week from Kuwait airport. The Qatari flights are open to any expatriates who wish to depart to their home countries. The new move comes as Kuwait prepares to launch a major air bridge starting Sunday to transport up to 50,000 Kuwaitis back home from several countries where they have been stranded because of the coronavirus.
The Cabinet on Monday approved the repatriation plan, slated to start on April 19, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah said. The prime minister also said that the country has sufficient food and medicine reserves and the government will continue to ensure such reserves are sufficient. Sheikh Ahmad said the repatriation will be carried out in phases, with the first phase lasting for three days focused on bringing Kuwaitis from GCC states and Egypt. Other stages will be launched on April 25 to bring all Kuwaitis who have expressed the desire to return.
Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah said the repatriation operation will be completed on May 7, so citizens will spend most of the holy fasting of Ramadan and the Eid Al-Fitr in the country. He said that depending on health conditions, some arrivals will be sent to ministry-run quarantines, while the rest will be sent home provided they strictly remain isolated from others.
The health minister warned all in the country that the situation is delicate and all must stay at home in order to contain the disease. The Cabinet did not discuss the issue of imposing a total curfew or expanding lockdowns to other residential areas, as was expected. This will be discussed in its next session.
The foreign ministry is still talking to authorities in Egypt and Bangladesh to allow the return of thousands of the two nationalities who have responded to a one-month amnesty by the interior ministry. The amnesty drive, offering free air tickets and no fines, began April 1 with Filipinos, who have already departed.
But the Egyptian and Bangladeshi governments have not so far given the green light for the return of their nationals. The civil aviation authority issued new directives regulating the return of foreign workers to their countries, with one of the guidelines banning the travel of anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus.
In the meantime, MPs strongly criticized Finance Minister Mohammad Al-Sheetan, calling on him to resign, as the National Assembly financial and economic affairs committee began yesterday discussing a government-sponsored draft on public debt allowing the government to borrow up to KD 20 billion over the next 10 years.
MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said as the government has not withdrawn its draft law on public debt, the finance minister should either resign or face a grilling in the Assembly. He reiterated that Kuwait is not in need to borrow funds as there are many alternatives and plenty of cash available with various government departments. MP Safa Al-Hashem also criticized the minister, saying he is unable to run the ministry and should resign.