Coronavirus in KuwaitKuwait

Ban on weddings, diwaniyas; govt mulls imposing curfew

KUWAIT: Minister of Social Affairs Maryam Al-Aqeel meets officials at the airport after supervising the deportation process of 96 Egyptians yesterday. – KUNA

By B Izzak and Agencies

KUWAIT: Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah issued a number of decrees yesterday banning social gatherings including weddings and parties as part of preventative measures against the coronavirus. The decrees prevent large non-family gatherings and receptions in halls and in homes. Gatherings in public and private diwaniyas are also included in the new measures. Police will be tasked to enforce the decrees, arrest violators and send them for interrogation and trial. The measures will be implemented as part of nationwide efforts to prevent the further spread of the disease.

The interior ministry later yesterday affirmed it will not tolerate violations of the health authorities’ ban on gatherings of people, with the objective of curbing the spread of coronavirus. The ministry’s public relations department, in a statement to the press, urged the public to abide by resolutions enforcing the ban in a bid to avoid penalties – either a fine of KD 50 to KD 200 or imprisonment of up to three months, or both. Police forces will make sure the public abide by the ban and will not tolerate violations, it said.

Kuwait appears to be headed to impose a curfew in a bid to contain the coronavirus, as National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said yesterday the Cabinet will discuss in its meeting today the possibility of imposing a curfew. Ghanem told reporters that MPs have asked him to convey messages to the prime minister that special consideration should be made for elderly people who live alone and make it easy to allow their relatives to reach them.

The speaker told reporters after a group of lawmakers met Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel that MPs also called for imposing strict curfew in areas where there are problems and poor compliance of government directives to stay at home, and a lax curfew in other areas. Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh has repeatedly warned that if people do not comply with directives to stay at home, the government will impose a curfew.

Ghanem also said the government has sent amendments to a law that governs penalties during epidemics like the coronavirus, as authorities want to stiffen penalties. He said the amendments stipulate a five-year jail term and a fine between KD 10,000 and KD 50,000 for infected patients who deliberately transmit the disease to others. The amendments also cover people who do not comply with official directives. The speaker said he will consult with the Assembly office and MPs on the need to hold an emergency session of the Assembly to approve urgent legislation, but only after taking necessary health precautions.

Ghanem said the meeting with Aqeel discussed a number of issues including strategic food reserves at cooperative societies, the issue of expatriate workers and sending home expats who are willing to go. The speaker praised the effort of some expatriates who are standing on the frontline in countering the disease alongside Kuwaitis. The issue of illegal expats was also raised with the minister. MP Saleh Abul said lawmakers also raised with the minister the issue of asking charity societies to provide food and assistance to needy expatriates who may have lost their jobs as a result of the shutdown.

Aqeel said yesterday teams have been formed that will check on people violating home quarantine to take necessary legal action against them. Aqeel, also Minister of State for Economic Affairs, said in a press statement that people instructed to stay in home quarantine went to their workplaces in violation of instructions, which will trigger the closure of these places and penalizing of these persons.

Meanwhile, Aqeel said an EgyptAir flight left Kuwait International Airport yesterday with 298 passengers on board, including 96 Egyptian deportees. Administrative procedures were taken against the 96 deportees while the other passengers had expired visas or wanted to leave willingly, she told KUNA at the airport after supervising the deportation process.

“Some deportees had violated recent Cabinet decrees regarding preventive measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, while others had violated residency and labor laws. They were arrested in a crackdown jointly carried out by quadripartite taskforce representing the ministry of interior, the Public Authority of Manpower, Kuwait Municipality and the ministry of commerce and industry,” the minister revealed.

The government of Kuwait footed the bill of the tickets of the deportees, Aqeel said, affirming the commitment of all state agencies in taking the necessary measures against law violators, particularly when it comes to the precautions against COVID-19. The minister reminded all expatriates in Kuwait of the need to commit themselves to the provisions of law and the safety guidelines or face legal measures. Aqeel applauded the cooperation of state agencies that arranged for the deportation process, notably the ministries of interior and foreign affairs, PAM and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The ministry of health yesterday reported 12 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number to 142. The 12 new cases include six Kuwaitis, an American resident and a Spanish resident who had all been to Britain. Sheikh Basel announced that three more coronavirus cases have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 15. Of the remaining cases, four are receiving treatment at the intensive care unit.

The health ministry warned yesterday against fraud committed by some people selling unauthorized coronavirus testing devices, saying an expatriate was arrested for doing so. The ministry “is the only authority in the state that carries out tests under the supervision of specialized medical staff,” Dr Abdullah Al-Bader, Assistant Undersecretary for Pharmaceutical and Food Supervision, said in a statement. He reaffirmed that MoH did not authorize any local company or pharmacy to sell coronavirus testing devices.

Bader said MoH is coordinating with health ministries in GCC countries to authorize the official testing devices. He said the expatriate was arrested because he was selling unauthorized testing devices at very high prices on social media. He said MoH informed the ministry of interior, which arrested the person and referred him to prosecution.

Yesterday, the interior ministry warned against hiring domestic workers paid by the hour as part of nationwide measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ministry’s assistant secretary for residency affairs Maj Gen Talal Maarafi said this segment of the workforce has a chance of contracting the virus and spreading it due to the nature of their work. Maarafi asked people to inform competent authorities concerning this matter.

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