By Ahmad Jabr

KUWAIT: Kuwait took one step closer to returning to normal life yesterday by lifting almost all coronavirus restrictions. During its weekly meeting, the Cabinet cancelled pre-departure and on-arrival PCR test requirements as well as quarantine for passengers entering Kuwait who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Cabinet also decided to allow people unvaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to Kuwait and enter malls and cinemas, provided they produce a negative PCR test result valid for 72 hours.

People who are partially vaccinated are not required to bring a PCR result on arrival, but must quarantine for seven days, which can be ended with a negative PCR test. Unvaccinated people can travel, but to enter Kuwait they must carry a negative PCR test certificate issued at least 72 hours before the flight's date, must remain in home quarantine for seven days after arrival and must undergo a PCR test on the seventh day to end the quarantine. The new measures become effective as of Feb 20.

The Cabinet also agreed to restore employee capacity at state departments to 100 percent from March 13 and allow public transportation to carry passengers at full capacity. Mosques are allowed to end physical distancing, while indoor conferences and meetings are also allowed to take place. Social gatherings including weddings are also allowed indoors or outdoors provided health protocols are followed.

The Cabinet also announced that children under 16 who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 can enter schools without the need to bring a negative PCR test certificate every week, while only students who test positive or show symptoms must be isolated. HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said in a press conference later yesterday that Kuwait managed to overcome the latest COVID-19 wave "with the least damage on the economic, health and social levels". He credited health workers' efforts, along with the government's plan "led by the health ministry" in helping make this possible.

The premier however warned that easing restrictions does not mean ending health precautions, particularly wearing facemasks. He expressed gratitude to citizens and residents alike for their "cooperation and commitment to health protocols", which he said greatly helped overcome the new wave quickly.

On Jan 10, the Cabinet had adopted restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Kuwait, including reducing staff at state departments to 50 percent and urging the private sector to reduce staff as well, applying physical distancing at mosques, canceling in-person conferences and meetings and cutting public transportation passenger capacity to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Government Communication Center Chairman and Government Spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem denied as "untrue" reports about the resignation of the government, Foreign Minister and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, or any other minister. "All what has been circulated on the resignation of the government, the foreign minister or any other government member is totally untrue," the spokesman said on Twitter.