By Muna Al-Fuzai
Last week, I like many others was calling on the government to take all necessary measures to protect the population in Kuwait from the risk of the spread of the coronavirus. One of those popular demands was the closure of air links with countries where there are cases of persons infected with the coronavirus. I think this procedure is important for the entire population, whether citizens or expatriates, because the risk of transmission of the virus from one person to another has no limits.
So keeping the ports open in a country like Kuwait, where the number of resident expatriates exceeds three million versus a million citizens means that there is a high possibility of transmitting the infection. Not only this, but it also means providing administrative and medical procedures, suitable quarantine, medical and nursing staff and equipment too.
The civil aviation authority issued a circular last week (which was later rescinded by the Kuwaiti Cabinet) for all foreign travelers coming from Egypt, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Georgia, and Lebanon, to conduct a medical examination to confirm that they are free of the coronavirus before they enter Kuwait, and the examination must be conducted by health centers accredited by the Kuwaiti embassy or local authorities in countries where Kuwait does not have embassies.
The announcement stated that in the event that a virus-free certificate is not carried, the passenger would be prevented from entering Kuwait and deported on the same carrier without the state bearing any financial costs, and the airline would be fined for violating this circular. As for the citizens of Kuwait coming from these countries, they will be allowed entry, provided that the necessary quarantine procedures are applied.
Flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Thailand, Italy, Singapore, Japan and Iraq have been suspended temporarily. However, on Thursday, the Council of Ministers issued a decision to suspend the precautionary measures that were intended to be applied to Egyptians heading to Kuwait, which includes a certified examination to confirm being free of the coronavirus.
I think that the Kuwaiti government may have justifications for this step, as the Egyptian community in Kuwait is the largest Arab community, most of whom work in jobs in the government and private sector, including teachers, judges and engineers.
In light of the decision to return to work after the national holidays, it is natural that there is a need for employment, but this does not mean ignoring the obligation to carry out mandatory testing for the coronavirus and not allowing any person to continue work without that certificate and presenting it to their supervisors at their workplaces, because the presence of an infected person means that many people may contract the disease, especially teachers who are likely to mix with children and other teachers. A compulsory medical examination is required and should not be ignored.
As fears rise of the proliferation of coronavirus around the world, scientists warn that the new virus may become “permanent” or “seasonal”, meaning that it will not disappear at all. Some experts have warned that it could turn into a permanent disease like the cold and seasonal flu. Coronavirus is a threat to the general public, therefore, most countries have formed plans and strategies to reduce and confront it to limit its spread, and control it as much as possible and protect societies from it according to studied mechanisms.