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Kuwait extends lockdown by closing mosques, parks; no curfew as cases surge to 100

By Jamie Etheridge
KUWAIT: Kuwait extended its lockdown on Friday in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, with a total of 100 confirmed cases, some of them locally transmitted after coming in contact with travellers returning from infected countries. On Friday, the ministry of Awqaf announced just before noon prayers that Muslims do not need to attend Friday prayers during a pandemic. Thousands around the country still attended the prayers as mosques were still open, but later in the day, on the advice of health ministry officials, mosques were shuttered and all Muslims were advised to pray the five daily prayers at home. 
Authorities also closed public parks, beaches, walking paths and all other public spaces, and again urged all citizens and residents of the country to stay home in a bit to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Tareq Al-Mezrem, official spokesman for the government, said as of yet no curfew has been imposed by the government. 
“We again deny what is being circulated on social media on imposing a curfew in the country, and the government’s decisions are announced in full transparency through the media, and we call for the implementation of instructions and preventive measures of the ministry of health, including stopping all gatherings,” reported KUNA on Friday.
The health ministry announced 20 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, taking the total number of confirmed infected cases in the country to 100. Of the 20 new cases, 15 are Kuwaitis returning from Iran, one Kuwaiti who returned from the UK, and another Kuwaiti who returned from the US. The remaining three cases are of two expats who were in contact with a returnee from Azerbaijan and another who was in contact with a returnee from Spain. 
The measures followed the official announcement by the Cabinet on Wednesday of a public holiday from March 12-26, with all government ministries and departments closing – except those serving vital needs. All co-ops and grocery stores, gas cylinder distribution centers, pharmacies, the Kuwait Flour Mills and Bakery Company and gas stations remained open Friday. Panic buying that broke out on Wednesday after the government announced the official start of the lockdown has subsided and grocery shops are operating normally. 
Many private sector businesses including malls remained open; however the government suspended all mass transit across the country. 
Kuwait’s International Airport closes at midnight Friday for all commercial flights and no one except citizens returning may enter the airport. Additionally, all restaurants and cafes are closed for dining in, with takeout and delivery options allowed. Gyms, cinemas, wedding halls, the Friday Market and all areas for public gatherings remain closed. 
Health officials continue to examine thousands of expatriates who traveled to or from Egypt, Lebanon or Syria from Feb 27 onwards at the new health testing center in Mishref at the fairgrounds. On Thursday and Friday, thousands of people attended the testing. Thousands of other expatriates from countries including those coming from Singapore, Japan, Thailand, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Sweden, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Germany, France, United States and United Kingdom must undergo a mandatory home quarantine for 14 days. People who entered Kuwait from China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Iraq face a mandatory government quarantine for 14 days.

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