By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said it increased the daily capacity of operation for arrivals to 5,000 passengers yesterday as it prepares for the expected influx of residents who have been barred from returning to Kuwait since early March. Expatriates have been allowed to return to the country from August 1 provided they have valid residencies and have taken two doses of vaccines approved by Kuwait.

DGCA Director General Yousef Al-Fawzan said in a press statement that DGCA has received an official approval regarding increasing the operational capacity to reach 5,000 arrivals a day, starting from yesterday, while the departure capacity is open to all passengers without any restrictions. He stressed the keenness of the airport authorities to implement health procedures for all passengers, pointing out that the operational capacity of flights has been raised to about 67 departing and arriving flights daily. Fawzan indicated that the airport is ready to receive vaccinated non-Kuwaitis following the recent decision of the government, starting from Aug 1.

Kuwait has banned the issuance of any form of visas, including visit visas. Departures out of Kuwait have been kept open for Kuwaitis as well as residents, but Kuwaiti travelers must have taken two doses of an approved vaccine. The health ministry said yesterday that people returning to Kuwait must undergo a PCR test only from authorized labs in their home countries, stressing passengers will not be allowed to board the plane without approved PCR tests taken within 72 hours of the trip.

In a statement posted on its Twitter account, the ministry however did not name those labs. The names should be confirmed with airlines in the passengers' respective countries. The ministry said a technical team from the ministry will scrutinize the PCR certificates before uploading them to its platforms. Abdullah Al-Sanad, spokesman of the ministry, said that any test certificate from unauthorized labs will not be accepted.

The health ministry statement said passengers who had taken two doses of an approved vaccine and are fully immunized will be asked to undergo a second PCR test on the third day of arrival while under home quarantine. If the test is negative, they will be freed from quarantine. For those who are not immunized, they will be asked to take a second PCR test on arrival and again on the sixth day of arrival while under home quarantine.

Kuwait in early March slapped a total ban on the entry of all foreigners including those who hold valid residencies as part of its efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Kuwaitis who have been vaccinated twice were given freedom to leave the country and return.

The health ministry also refuted rumors on social media about the ministry denying private hospitals from importing coronavirus vaccines. The ministry issued a decree in February that permits private hospitals and health centers to import approved COVID-19 vaccines. In the same context, the union of the owners of private medical professions affirmed that importation of medicines and vaccines must go through franchisees and registered medical companies; therefore, private hospitals can only administer vaccines if provided by these companies in coordination with the health ministry.