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Health minister briefs panel on coronavirus, travel curbs

KUWAIT: A high school student undergoes a COVID-19 PCR test ahead of exams at a school yesterday. – Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah yesterday briefed the National Assembly’s health committee about the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and the issue of travel by Kuwaitis and expats, the rapporteur of the committee said. MP Saadoun Hammad said the discussions also tackled the so-called Indian variant and its spread in some countries and the arrival of some Indian nationals to the country.

“We have heard all the details from the minister and other top officials,” Hammad said after the meeting, but provided no further details on the responses of the minister or any new decision in the pipeline. The lawmaker also said the panel discussed the issue of travel by Kuwaitis and expats, but provided no details on what the minister said. It was expected that the minister would inform the panel about when Kuwait will allow the entry of expats into Kuwait. Expats have been barred from entering Kuwait for more than three months.

Hammad said the committee discussed with the minister losses suffered by Kuwait Airways because of the measures taken against travel, but Sheikh Basel insisted that it was not the health ministry which banned KAC from flying, but the Civil Aviation Authority.

Students protest outside the health ministry yesterday against the holding of written exams.

The committee also discussed with the minister the higher secondary exams which the education ministry insists to hold at schools, while many lawmakers are urging it to conduct them online. The ministry officials informed the committee that only 27,000 students have been vaccinated out of 50,000 who will appear for the exams, said Hammad, adding that the minister said the education ministry is responsible for the exams and not the health ministry.

Kuwait yesterday launched free PCR tests for unvaccinated students of grade 12 to ensure their safety during the upcoming school exams. The ministry of education said in a press statement that this measure comes in cooperation with the ministry of health. The students were tested yesterday and today from 8 am to 8 pm in a number of schools in each educational area in the country.

The statement said that the move aims to ensure the highest standards of health and safety for the students and to reduce the risks of COVID-19 infection. Students taking the exams will require a presentation of a vaccination certificate issued or a negative result of a PCR test, it said. Any student who suffers from COVID-19 infection or has been in contact with an infected person should not come to school for exams, it added.

But dozens of students supported by a number of MPs staged a protest yesterday to urge the education ministry to hold online exams instead of written exams. The ministry however asked all students to undergo PCR tests ahead of the exams starting on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Hammad said yesterday that the financial and economic affairs committee has rejected government plans to impose any form of taxes or increase fees for public services. He said the committee rejected what the five-year development plan stipulates – to impose selective taxes and value added tax, in addition to raising fees on some public services. Hammad said the committee will not approve any draft law to impose taxes or fees on citizens.


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