LOS ANGELES: Travelers check for flight information at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 24, 2021. Over 2,000 flights were cancelled and thousands delayed around the world as the highly infectious Omicron variant disrupted holiday travel. —AFP

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Kuwait is again witnessing a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases, with 150 cases on Saturday and 240 on Sunday. Kuwait has almost returned to normal, with most restrictions lifted, although facemasks are still needed to be worn in closed places. Kuwait detected its first case of the Omicron variant on Dec 7 in a European traveler who arrived in Kuwait from an African country where the variant is present. On Dec 21, the number rose to 13, after 12 new cases were found.

Kuwaiti authorities have urged all those arriving in Kuwait, even if they’re not infected with the virus, to self-isolate and follow all other preventative measures including avoiding gatherings and wearing facemasks. Authorities have also urged the public to take the third vaccine dose (booster) and called on the public to postpone any travel plans except for necessary trips.

But there are some travel plans that couldn’t be cancelled, like the couple who planned their trip to Georgia before the Omicron virus was detected. “We already planned for this long before Omicron, and I don’t want this trip to be postponed. I have work-related stress for the past three years and I want to relax and unwind, even for a few days,” said Donnalyn and Jonjie, who left for Georgia yesterday for a weeklong vacation.

“I just hope things will be okay, and there will be no further restrictions on travelers,” Donnalyn said. The couple was scheduled to travel to France, but Paris imposed further travel restrictions in the last few weeks after a rise in the number of COVID cases. France is reporting a daily record of more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases as President Emmanuel Macron weighs measures to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Other expatriates who had planned to take their annual vacation in the next few days have changed their minds. “I had planned to go on vacation with my wife and two children in February next year, but with the new variant, I don’t want to take any chances, as maybe we won’t be able to re-enter Kuwait. I don’t want to lose my job, because I have a family to feed and children to send to school,” Eric told Kuwait Times.

People in Kuwait are aware of the threat of the new variant and are taking extra personal precautions. “In Kuwait, we have to do our share to help the government protect everyone. If you know there’s something wrong, stay at home until fully recovered so the virus cannot spread to someone else,” said Bashir, an Indian resident. As of Sunday, Kuwait has reported 415,151 COVID cases and 2,468 deaths, along with 411,340 recoveries.