KUWAIT: Vendors, wearing protective masks, sit outside their shop in Kuwait City on February 26, 2020. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: The sudden drop of sales at many stores throughout Kuwait has forced some retailers and restaurants to give emergency leaves and vacations to some of their staff. This was the response of some companies to cope with the current situation and prepare their staff for the busy schedule once the suspension of schools is lifted and things get back to normal.

"We asked several people to take advantage of the few days off and take the extra days off we owe them during these holidays, since we have very few customers," an HR official told Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity. "On busy days, we tell our employees to work extra hours in exchange for days off. Many of them want to take advantage of these extra days since we have almost zero customers, so we will give them these days off," the official added.

The government recently decided to close schools for two weeks and is mulling an additional suspension of two weeks. Several churches and community gatherings have also been suspended due to the coronavirus scare, including the celebration of high Mass, seminars and concerts. Many hotel ballrooms and rooms which were booked earlier have been cancelled due to the virus scare. In Kuwait there are 56 cases of coronavirus, most of them Kuwaitis who contracted the disease while on vacation to infected countries such as Iran and Italy.

"We have no work really, because my job is in a canteen inside a school campus. If there is no school, we have no work too. I hope they pay the salary despite having no work for two weeks," a staff member of an English school in Hawally said. Some schoolteachers also expressed apprehension whether they are going to get paid at the end of the month. "I hope they will not cut our salary - sometimes they do that - because they do not care," a schoolteacher said.

Employees of some private companies and retail shops are afraid that the regular commission they get monthly will be cut since they only have few customers. "It is almost clear that we will get no commission this month since we failed to reach our target sales," an employee said.

"At my store yesterday, there were no customers at all until 5 pm. We normally open at 10 am and close at 10 pm, with lots of customers from opening till closing. Now it's really depressing; no customers and no sales for us means no commission. I am paying my monthly amortization for a house I bought last year in the Philippines. I am afraid I will not be able to pay next month because I do not have extra money. We hope that everything will get back to normal; we are afraid our salaries will be affected too because of this," a fashion store supervisor said.

A major company running a chain of restaurants all over Kuwait has asked its employees to take early vacations since sales have dropped up to 70 percent. "Most of our stores are located in big malls, but all of them have reported a sudden drop in sales. So we advised our employees to take advantage of the slow days and take a short vacation," the company's HR department said.