By Jamie Etheridge
This week Kuwait will begin the process of bringing home the more than 40,000+ citizens stranded abroad. Many of these are students or young professionals, but there are also those who were on holiday when all this started and others who had work commitments or family outside Kuwait.
That the government is organizing such a massive airlift is admirable and commendable. Many governments do little to help citizens abroad; some have even refused to allow their own citizens to return home during this pandemic, effectively setting them adrift in the unknown world. Kuwait cares for its people, and in times of crisis, bands together in ways that other nations could and should look to as a model.
The return of thousands of citizens also creates an opportunity for expatriates who want to leave Kuwait and return to their home countries. The hundreds of flights that will be necessary to bring citizens into the country will be empty heading out, thus open for passengers looking for one-way tickets home.
Of course the cost of those tickets is often prohibitive, and for many, leaving Kuwait is not an option at this point. Some countries are not allowing even their own citizens to return and others are in the middle of the pandemic crisis themselves and it’s safer for most people to try and wait the situation out here and hope that life returns to something akin to normal as soon as possible.
In Europe, there are already some positive signs, as a few places like Austria, Denmark and others are being cautious and taking small steps toward reopening. The key to reopening seems to be the twin Ts of testing and tracing. In essence, any place that reopens after the lockdown would need to be able to quickly test anyone who is showing symptoms and then trace, perhaps via a tracking device installed on smartphones, everyone that person has come into contact with.
It’s not clear how such a system might work in Kuwait and there is also the concern of asymptomatic patients – those who show no signs of the illness but are infected and spread it. There will likely be many more days of high infection counts before we see a flattening of the curve and a return to normal life. Until then, we will have to continue staying at home in order to stay safe and hope for the best.