Mask-clad residents walk beneath a billboard bearing the instruction "It's serious, stay at home" on May 28, 2020. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The Council of Ministers yesterday decided to ease the total lockdown into a partial curfew for 12 hours from 6 pm to 6 am as part of a comprehensive plan to return to normal life in phases, the interior and health ministers said. HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah said the plan is based on a gradual return to normal life provided all health instructions are followed, especially social distancing and complying with the partial curfew.

Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah said the return to normal life will be carried out in five phases, each consisting of three weeks with complete flexibility to move back to previous phases or reduce existing phases depending on the number of coronavirus cases. If the plan takes full course and each of the phases completes its duration of three weeks, the plan will end on Sept 13. The curfew will be eased but will be completely lifted on July 12 at the start of the third phase. Government and private offices will remain closed during the first phase, which ends on June 20.

Sheikh Basel said the Cabinet decided to impose a lockdown on the residential areas of Farwaniya, Khaitan, Hawally and Maidan Hawally, in addition to Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula, which are already under lockdown, effectively placing the overwhelming majority of expats in total isolation.

The minister said the first phase will start on May 31 for three weeks, during which a partial curfew starts from 6 pm to 6 am except in areas under lockdown. During this phase, mosques and worship places will be allowed to reopen after completing health conditions. In addition, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to sell via drive through only. Other services to reopen include petrol stations, delivery services, private hospitals and clinics, auto repair and spare part shops and others.

The second phase starts on June 21, when the curfew will be for nine hours from 9 pm to 6 am. During this period, government and private offices will reopen with less than 30 percent capacity. Other services that will reopen include malls from 10am to 6 pm daily, money exchange and finance services, retail services and parks. Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve, but no dine-in.

The third phase will start on July 12, during which curfew will be abolished and government and private offices will operate with less than 50 percent capacity. In addition, hotels, resorts and furnished apartments will reopen, taxis will resume but with one passenger only and mosques will be allowed to host Friday prayers.

The fourth phase is scheduled to begin on Aug 2. During this phase, government and private offices can operate with more than 50 percent staff, restaurants and cafes can receive customers and public transport will resume operation all with social distancing.

The fifth phase is scheduled to start on Aug 23, and under this phase life should return to normal while maintaining social distancing and sanitization.

The minister however insisted that the three-week duration of each phase is not rigid and can be shortened or extended depending on the health conditions, which means that the five phases could finish earlier than Sept 13.