KUWAIT: Kuwait is looking to arrange for the return of a group of expatriates stuck in countries from which travel to the Gulf state is banned, so that they can go back to their jobs in state departments where their services are urgently needed, a local Arabic daily reported yesterday. In this regard, the Cabinet's supreme committee for the coronavirus emergency agreed to impose institutional quarantine on some expats from banned countries who work in various jobs in Kuwait on returning to the country, informed sources told Al-Rai.

"The total number of expats approved to return and be quarantined at their own expense or the expense of the bodies they work for is initially 800," the sources explained, noting that a second batch of 600 others is awaiting approval. "The approved categories include doctors, judges, as well as maintenance experts and technical teams of the ministries of oil and electricity and water," the sources highlighted. The list does not include public school teachers, some of whom have been stuck abroad since Kuwait initially closed its airport over six months ago as a precaution against COVID-19.

Interruption period
On that regard, the Ministry of Education (MoE) explained yesterday that its expat employees, including teachers and administrative staff who had left before March 12 and were unable to return due to the flights ban, will be considered on leave and paid for the official days off and the work suspension period decided by the Cabinet.

However, in case the employees continue to be unable to return to Kuwait after work resumed in state departments, they may apply for an extra leave period within the maximum limit of 15 days, and do so by phone or any other means of communication. "Otherwise, their employment will be deemed interrupted and they will not be paid for the interruption period," MoE said in a statement issued yesterday, announcing a circular acting undersecretary Faisal Al-Maqseed has released on the procedures to be followed with expat employees who had left and are unable to return to work.

Institutional quarantine
Responding to a question about whether the government might consider allowing people to return from the banned countries provided that they adhere to the institutional quarantine condition, the sources said that would mean the list of banned countries is not needed, which contradicts with the need to keep assessing health situations in those countries that are witnessing a surge in the number of infections or are unstable.

Although the sources stressed the economic feasibility of this proposal, they stressed that health considerations remain the prime concern, especially in view of the increase in infected cases due to not following preventive measures. Upon resumption of commercial flights on August 1, Kuwait announced a list of 32 countries to and from which flights would remain suspended until further notice.

The list includes Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, Northern Macedonia, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka and Syria.