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Curfew fresh body blow for struggling businesses

KUWAIT: Customers enjoy lunch in their car outside a restaurant in Kuwait City yesterday. As dine-in services are banned, some restaurants in Kuwait have come up with in-car dining. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Many businesses already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic have been further affected after the imposition of the latest 12-hour curfew in Kuwait. “We have already suffered losses due to the closure of dine-in services at the restaurant for over a month. Ninety percent of our orders are usually during the evening, but now we cannot even deliver, so our sales have dropped dramatically. The situation is really bad, and the government will not even compensate us,” said Ali, who runs a Lebanese restaurant in Salmiya.

Kuwait imposed a daily curfew from 5 pm to 5 am from March 7 until April 8 aimed at curbing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Since Feb 7, the government cut opening hours for non-essential retail shops and banned non-citizens from entering the country.

The health ministry yesterday announced 1,157 additional COVID-19 cases over a 24-hour span, taking total number of infections to 203,055, while eight fatalities were recorded, raising the death toll to 1,141. Active cases amounted to 13,747 with 181 in intensive care units, spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said. Health authorities conducted 7,760 swab tests, which means 14.9 percent of swab tests performed in 24 hours were positive, Sanad revealed.

“Our sales had already fallen by over 65 percent with the (earlier) 8 pm closure, as the peak of our sales is after 7 pm. Now with the curfew, we close at 3:30 pm. Our sales are almost dead, and I don’t think we will be able to resist for long. We already closed one branch last year due to the pandemic. I hope we will survive,” said a salesman at a major retail store.

“The situation of our business is very bad. Sales had already dropped during the pandemic, and negative news announced by the government is badly affecting our sales. When a minister announces there will be no salaries next month, people typically stop buying unnecessary stuff such as outfits and bags, which is what we sell,” rued the owner of another retail store.

The huge drop in sales has made owners of retail stores hope the government announces a total closure. “With these meager sales that hardly cover our expenses, we wish that a total closure is imposed, so at least we will be relieved from paying half the rent. The government won’t compensate us anyway. I’m not sure if we will be able to survive for long if this situation persists,” stressed a salesman at a shoe store.

The drop in sales has led some businesses to cut the prices of their services. A maintenance company is offering a discounted rate for the annual contract for maintaining kitchen and sanitary appliances from KD 120 to only KD 50 per year. Employees too are facing a tough time, as some workers were not able to reach home on the first day of the curfew due to heavy traffic. Three deliverymen of a restaurant in Kuwait City could only deliver half their orders, and by the time they returned to the restaurant to return the undelivered orders, it was 5 pm already. They had to spend the night sleeping on the floor of the restaurant.


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