By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: While the first waves of panic over the coronavirus pandemic have generally subsided, people remain fearful of contracting the virus. Despite the slow rollout of the vaccine, cases in Kuwait are climbing and the number of serious cases worsens daily. The virus has been with us for more than a year now, but cases of people contracting the virus are still increasing.

In the US alone, more than half a million people have been reportedly killed by the virus. As of yesterday, total cases around the world were over 114.4 million with over 2.5 million fatalities. Kuwait ranks 61 globally with 190,852 cases and 1,083 deaths as of yesterday. Kuwait Times asked some expats on how they perceive COVID-19 nowadays.

A 62-year-old Palestinian said the panic has subsided, but generally he is still fearful on what the end result will be. "Until governments all over the world stop being bearers of bad news and stop overreacting and being paranoid, we will not overcome this pandemic and it will continue until the end of time," he said.

"Yes, we are all in trouble; we could be the next. If it's your time, it's your time. This disease is no less than ordinary flu or fever, but because we overreacted to it, we are all suffering," he said, adding he is still not ready to receive the vaccine himself. "I will see later. For now I am okay without the vaccine."

Bino, a 42-year-old Indian, said he is no longer afraid of the virus, but is very careful talking to people. "I will not talk to anyone unless they are wearing a facemask. Before I didn't care about riding the bus and sitting next to other passengers. Now if there are many people on the bus, I don't board it. I don't want to get this disease, so I follow the strict protocols set by the ministry of health," he said.

Job interruptions

Gary, a Filipino masseur at a five-star hotel in Kuwait, said he is no longer happy working as a masseur, as most of 2020 and now 2021 have only seen interruptions to his job. "I have been in this company for the past eight years now. Until a year ago, I was earning more than double my monthly salary from tips from my regular clients. Now I am literally destitute waiting until the government permits us to work," he said.

Noof, a 47-year-old Kuwaiti woman, said she no longer believes in science. "Before I thought any disease could be cured easily because of science. I was wrong! What happened to the projections of people claiming to be health experts? We have been in this situation since early 2020. We are in deep-deep trouble; our economy has sunk. The science said after the vaccine rollout, we will be OK. So what happened? Our country received the vaccine even before other countries. I have been depressed since 2020 till now," she said.

Vaccines in Kuwait arrived in December, with frontliners and Kuwaitis being vaccinated initially, along with expats. The jabs will continue until the end of the year or until 70 percent of the population is inoculated. On Feb 7, Kuwait implemented new regulations compelling all commercial establishments to close from 8 pm to 5 am. The Cabinet also ordered barbershops, salons, gyms and massage parlors to close down completely until further notice. Just before the national holidays, the government ordered all restaurants to end dine-in services.