KUWAIT: Kuwaiti Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Dr Saud Al-Harbi said any decision to bring back the scholarship students or terminate the current semester at home depends primarily on the view of the Ministry of Health. Speaking at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah at Seif Palace early morning yesterday, Harbi said the government has already developed a plan for evacuating the students from countries severely hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"But the implementation of this plan depends on the evolving situation," he said, affirming that the government would not hesitate to enforce the plan if need be. The government attaches great importance to the safety of the scholarship students and the orderliness of the educational process, he said, noting that the Ministry of Education will resume schooling "only after making sure that there is no health hazards."

The decision to suspend schooling is still in place and the Cabinet will decide on whether to extend the suspension after careful deliberations with the competent state bodies. "The Ministry of Health still has two weeks to work out its report on the matter and table it to the Cabinet," the minister went on.

Harbi noted that he met veteran educational experts, including incumbent and former senior officials of his ministry, to exchange views on how to address the current situation without jeopardizing the health of students. His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah are keen on following up the conditions of the scholarship students abroad and the educational process at home, he stressed.

On the Kuwaiti students studying the United States, Minister Harbi said the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington and its cultural offices keep close watch on the evolving situation in the light of US measures to combat the outbreak of COVID-19 from the very beginning. He reminded the scholarship students in countries that suspended study at their colleges of the need to care for their health and stay.

The government made available hotlines inside Kuwait for the families of scholarship students to contact with their children and get reassured about their safety, Harbi said, noting that his ministry is in constant contact with the ministries of foreign affairs and health as well as other state bodies on the situation of students abroad. He did not rule out the possibility of postponing the remaining part of the current semester to the summer holiday, saying, "exceptional conditions require exceptional responses."

Citizens abroad

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah said that Kuwait's government, acting upon instructions of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, spares no effort to bring citizens back home following coronavirus spread. "Those are our sons and we will spare no efforts to bring them back to their home country once health authorities give the green light," Sheikh Ahmad told the joint news conference. He said ministries of foreign affairs, health, higher education and defense were jointly responsible to bring back the Kuwaiti citizens.

Sheikh Ahmad said 8,913 citizens contacted Kuwaiti embassies in the countries they were in to arrange their return. He urged those who did not call to do so. "We have short term plans and medium-term plans, and God willing we won't need long-term plans," said Sheikh Ahmad when asked about a plan to evacuate citizens from Arab and European countries, and the US. The foreign ministry, said the top diplomat, would provide citizens abroad with whatever they need.

Sheikh Ahmad urged all ministries and government authorities to abide by regulations of the Ministry of Health to contain the virus and stop its spread. "Kuwait is assessing the situation on how to contain this pandemic and stop it from spreading, and to avoid collapse of the health system just like what happened in countries with excellent health care," he said. Sheikh Ahmad called on people in Kuwait to abide by regulations issued by the health ministry, and said the government's decision aimed at protecting them. He said Kuwait was communicating with China, South Korea and Singapore to benefit from their experience in containing the virus. He added rumors would undermine the government's endeavors to fight the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Saturday called on all Kuwaiti citizens stranded abroad to contact the embassy in the country in which they are located in, or the emergency phones of the embassies located on the ministry's website www.mofa.gov.kw or the emergency phones of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:98007888 - 98007999 for inquiries regarding their conditions. - KUNA