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Govt mulls locking down expat-dominated areas

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Authorities are seriously considering the possibility of imposing a lockdown on a number of residential areas dominated by expatriates amid a rise in the number of expatriate coronavirus cases and calls by MPs to isolate those areas, lawmakers said yesterday. Although the number of expats infected with COVID-19 remains a small portion of the cases announced, it has been on the rise for the past few days and the source of infection of a number of them is still under investigation, according to the health ministry.

MP Mohammad Al-Dallal said yesterday all options like a total curfew or lockdown of a number of residential areas are on the table of the Cabinet for a decision. Expanding restrictions has become a necessity, Dallal said, because of practices by some that clearly undermine the effectiveness of the partial curfew in place for the past several days.

He said the focus is on heavily populated expat areas like Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Shuwaikh Industrial Area, over fears they could become centers of spreading the deadly disease. The lawmaker said he will not blame the government for expanding its measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, parliamentary sources said that a mini-Cabinet meeting was held late Sunday that studied recommendations calling to intensify measures to implement the partial curfew and make people stay at home and not venture out unless for extreme necessity. The recommendations called for searching for alternatives to force people to stay at home most of the time.

A number of MPs called for imposing a lockdown on several expat residential areas to prevent the spread of coronavirus. MP Safa Al-Hashem called for a lockdown on Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, Shuwaikh Industrial Area, Mahboula and Khaitan, where at least one million expats, a majority of them blue-collar workers, are residing. She said the lockdown has become necessary to resolve the problem of not knowing the source of the disease.

MP Khalil Al-Saleh said he called the ministers of interior and health and asked them to convince authorities to lock down some areas like Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula, saying this has become inevitable because several workers have contracted the disease from unknown sources. A number of MPs urged the government to utilize the current period and adjust the demographic structure in the country, which is titled in favor of expatriates.

The ministry of health yesterday announced 11 new coronavirus cases that include eight Indians, one Saudi and two Kuwaitis. The ministry’s spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said the 11 new cases include a Kuwaiti who had travelled to the United Kingdom and a Saudi who had travelled to Saudi Arabia. Eight cases of contact infection were recorded – a Kuwaiti in contact with a case related to travel to France and Switzerland, seven Indians in contact with confirmed cases and an Indian whose case is under epidemiological investigation.

On Sunday, the ministry reported 20 cases that included nine Indians, three Bangladeshis and one Filipina, in addition to seven Kuwaitis. The new cases raise the total to 266, of whom 73 have recovered after the ministry announced five new recoveries yesterday. The spokesman said 194 cases are receiving treatment, 13 of whom are in the intensive care unit. As many as 910 people have been discharged from quarantine.

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