The saga of being stuck abroad

By Chidi Emmanuel

Like many people, I experienced an unexpected saga related to the coronavirus pandemic. What started as a one-month annual leave ended up being an eight-month vacation. Kuwait, just like other badly-affected countries, imposed restrictions in a bid to contain the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. But these measures created untold hardships and problems for expatriates. Families were separated amid a burden of accrued debts.

It was an unending story – from a partial lockdown to a total lockdown – then a complete ban on commercial flights. Like other residents, I was stuck abroad while visiting family in Lagos in Nigeria. I was stranded for more than eight months. From month to month, the situation worsened, until August 4, 2021, when the authorities finally opened the airport to expats who are fully inoculated with Kuwait-approved vaccines.

As if the trauma was not enough, I entered into another torturous phase of getting my vaccination certificate approved by the Kuwait health ministry’s Immune app. All the documents were uploaded as directed by the ministry, but to no avail. A process that was supposed to take three days (according to the acknowledgment receipt) took more than a month.

My eyes were glued to the Immune app as I waited for the good news – the green status – which indicates MoH’s approval. Finally, there came a sign of relief – the green color appeared on the app after weeks. Having taken the approved vaccines and doses (as stated by the MoH) and armed with the green status on the Immune app, I faced another herculean task of getting a ticket to Kuwait. The rush and the restrictions pushed ticket prices to skyrocket exponentially.

After I arrived in Kuwait, I was prompted by the Shlonik app to begin a one-week quarantine. You are required to either send a voice note or a selfie (three times a day) when prompted by the app. Alternatively, one can end their quarantine after three days by uploading a PCR test with a negative result. Amid this hassle, my building’s haris presented a litany of bills to pay – with a deadline.

The virus has led to significant knock-on effects on daily life, which are extensive and have far-reaching consequences. The pandemic also resulted in a dramatic loss of life worldwide and poses an unprecedented challenge to public health and economic and social systems globally.

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