‘KD 2.250 remaining for June’: People surviving under lockdown on bare minimum

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: The months of lockdown and curfews brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in sufferings, difficulties and unforeseen circumstances for many people around the world, including expats in Kuwait. No work and no pay is a regular topic of conversation among expatriate workers. Cases of hunger have been registered, employees have been terminated and there have been some reported cases of expats committing suicide due to the coronavirus or living in locked down areas.

The lockdown of two areas in Kuwait – Mahboula and Jleeb – was implemented in April. Three more areas – Farwaniya, Khaitan and Hawally – have now been included. Marivic, 60, not her real name, told Kuwait Times how she is coping, especially since many businesses including that of her sponsor are still closed. The florist lives and works in the new lockdown area of Hawally. She said her budget for the month of June is less than KD 3.

New normal

Before the lockdown announcement, she was preparing for the new normal, excited to visit her shop to fix some labels, throw out rotten flowers and organize stuff for the impending reopening of her flower shop. But the announcement of the lockdown dimmed her desire to go back to work on June 1.

“I know that it will not be normal as before, and we are not allowed to open yet, but I only wanted to check our stocks after the full curfew was eased. But I was shocked and disappointed that Hawally was included in the extended lockdown for three more weeks,” Marivic said.

But her biggest problem is her dwindling budget. “I don’t have money now to survive.  My last remaining KD 3 from my salary in March is now only KD 2.250 since I bought a gas cylinder so that we could cook rice and our remaining canned food and noodles. This is really a tough time for us – it is very difficult. I don’t know how we will survive after our stocks are over,” she said.

“I don’t know if the remaining noodles and canned food will last even a week. The lockdown is for three weeks – what will I do? I have to cook rice or soup so my daughter and I can survive till the end of this month. We are both in the same boat with no work and no pay,” she lamented. She said she contacted her boss for help, but several calls and messages were never answered.

Marivic told her landlord she cannot pay her April, May and June rent after the haris (janitor) told them to pay. “I cannot pay – what will I pay? We have no money,” she said. Marivic shares a single room with her daughter in Hawally so they can save money. “We share the rent as well as food and other expenses,” she said. “My daughter has family to feed back in the Philippines. I know she doesn’t have money. Between the two of us, we have KD 2.250 after we replaced our gas cylinder for 750 fils,” she said.

“Earlier we used to order the cylinder from the baqala, but we had to pay KD 2. So I told my daughter we can save our money if we buy the gas cylinder from the main station, but we had to walk about 3 kilometers from our house. At midday, we were pushing and pulling the gas cylinder through the main street of Hawally to reach the main station and then bring it back with us to the house,” Marivic said. The duo used a trolley bag to hold the cylinder.

Not surprised

Beth, 33, also not her real name, a resident of Mahboula, has been under lockdown area since April 10, and when she heard about the lockdown extension, she was not surprised at all. “I’ve been following the cases of COVID-19 in Kuwait every single day. I know there are no changes, so I assumed the government will not lift the lockdown. I wasn’t wrong after all. But I am particularly concerned of the plight of many expatriates in this area – they need help and food to survive,” she told Kuwait Times.

She said baqalas have run out of stocks. “Two months of being in the isolated area has been long enough – some people are literally begging for food in the neighborhood. Despite our meager stocks, I gave some of our canned food to some Indian residents who came and knocked on our door for help. We need to share, so I gave five cans,” said Beth, a teacher by profession.

But she also raised one subject – of fumigating and disinfecting. “I hope the lockdown and curfews can be used by the authorities to disinfect or fumigate the whole area to free us from the virus, but we haven’t seen such activities so far. I don’t know why they are not doing that, or maybe they did so but I haven’t seen it personally,” Beth said.

“They should be spraying chemicals to kill the virus. If we are considered an infected area, then they should spray. What I know is only suspected buildings are being disinfected. If this is the case, why do we have to be under lockdown? They can easily lock down a building with suspected COVID cases. What we are hoping is for the government to disinfect the area so the virus is eliminated,” she added.

“I probably would’ve been somewhere in the mountains or beaches of the Philippines now, preparing to return from a long vacation. I am a teacher and after a long and tiring year, I wanted to rest. But I couldn’t because of this pandemic. I hope this virus will end very soon. We need to reclaim our sanity and morality,” she said.

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