By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Following a steep rise in the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, especially among Kuwaiti citizens following a sharp drop, the cabinet is expected to reassess the possibility of imposing a total lockdown to stem the spread of the disease. Local reports said the cabinet is expected to debate the issue and possibly take a decision at the weekend after specialists have recommended a two-week total lockdown to stop the disease.

Osama Al-Enezi, a Kuwaiti specialist physician, said on Twitter yesterday that it appears that the only way to confront the spread of the coronavirus is through a total lockdown for two weeks. Local medical mathematical studies have shown that based on the current situation, the coronavirus is expected to reach its peak by the end of May and then begin a long decline that could continue for weeks.

The health ministry has reported a big jump in the number of cases in the past few days and although the largest number remains among expat workers, there has been a steep rise among Kuwaiti citizens probably because of unlawful family gatherings during the fasting months of Ramadan. Kuwait has already put two highly-populated areas; Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula, under total lockdown for nearly a month now in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

In the meantime, the National Assembly's health and labor committee was due to discuss government-sponsored amendments to the labor law in the private sector allowing distress companies to reduce salaries of its staff. The amendments stipulate that companies which face financial problems because of the measures against the coronavirus, can reduce the salaries of their employees or ask them to take unpaid leave with the manpower authority permission.

The companies can alternatively dismiss their staff or part of them but after paying their full end of service indemnity rights. MPs have strongly opposed the government move, saying they will not accept any measure that could undermine the rights of workers, especially Kuwaitis. The amendments could be debated during the assembly special session scheduled for next Tuesday.

In the meantime, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said yesterday that he was informed by the finance minister that the government has no plans to withdraw a draft law allowing the government to borrow KD 20 billion over the next 10 years. Therefore, Ghanem said he sent the draft law to the financial and economic affairs committee to study it. The law has been rejected by a large number of lawmakers.