By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The health ministry announced that vaccinations for the winter season will be limited to Kuwaitis only at polyclinics for the time being, in light of the current circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic. The health ministry has imported 400,000 doses of vaccines and distributed more than 100,000 doses of influenza vaccines and 70,000 doses of pneumonia vaccines to 34 clinics and vaccination centers around the country.

The ministry said it administered around 150,000 doses of flu vaccines and 75,000 doses of pneumonia vaccines last year, adding it is expecting an increase in the number of people seeking flu shots this year. The health ministry launched its seasonal winter vaccination campaign against seasonal flu and pneumococcal pneumonia on Oct 15, with officials urging the public to get vaccinated at the nearest health center.

After reports of crowding and long lines as people rushed to health centers, there were calls on social media to limit flu shots to Kuwaitis only. But the latest decision by the ministry was met with outrage online, with a Kuwaiti doctor labeling the provision of healthcare based on nationality "one of the worst forms of racism".

Meanwhile, the National Assembly's human resources development committee yesterday approved amendments to the population law proposed by the government and MPs ahead of the debate in the Assembly tomorrow. Head of the committee MP Khalil Al-Saleh said the panel's decision was unanimous, but he did not provide details of the amendments, which will be taken up for debate in the Assembly in the second reading of the law.

The law was approved by the Assembly in the first reading about two weeks ago, but the 12 Cabinet members present voted against the law. The law aims at reducing the number of expats in the country gradually over the next five years. It also wants the government to set a ceiling for the number of expats needed by the country and also calls for setting quotas of various expat communities.

Local media said the government objected to two main points - it does not want the law to oblige the government to set a ceiling for expats and also objected to the proposed quota system. MP Saleh said the committee met last week with four ministers and 15 government agencies related to the population issue and heard their viewpoints on the law.

Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem meanwhile invited lawmakers and the government for a shortened Assembly term to be held on Oct 20 to discuss a number of laws and issues. HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is expected to open the term.

A number of opposition MPs at the weekend submitted a letter to the Assembly calling to debate amendments to the election law after the interior and defense panel failed to discuss the proposed amendments. The letter said that since the concerned panel failed to do its job, the Assembly should debate the proposals directly and decide on them.

The main amendment calls for changing the voting system by allowing voters to elect two candidates instead of one in the existing law. MPs claim that the one-vote system introduced in late 2012 has harmed the democratic process in the country and should be amended.

MP Saleh Ashour meanwhile called for a comprehensive solution to thousands of stateless people or bedoons living in the country. Any solution should focus on the humanitarian situation of the bedoons by providing them with jobs, healthcare and education among other things.