By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Education Minister Ali Al-Mudhaf said the Cabinet has agreed to hold paper-based exams for grade 12 students from May 30 till June 10. A second round of exams will be held from July 4 until July 13. The minister also stressed the importance of vaccinating all 12th-graders alongside their teachers and administrators.

Speaking during a virtual press conference late Monday, Mudhaf said all schools will reopen in September. He said kindergarten and first and second grade students will return to school on Sept 19, while the remaining elementary grades will resume classes on Sept 20.

Intermediate schools will reopen on Sept 26 and high schools on Oct 3. Mudhaf added administrative and teaching staff of kindergarten, elementary and middle schools will commence work on Sept 12, and high school staff on Sept 19.

Kuwait yesterday reported 1,288 new coronavirus infections, taking total cases to 221,743, the health ministry said. The ministry's spokesperson Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said 13 more people died due to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 1,246. He said 9,367 virus tests were conducted in this period, taking total PCR tests to 1,985,656. Sanad added 1,202 people recovered from the disease, as total recoveries in the country climbed to 206,180.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly's financial and economic affairs committee yesterday approved a draft law setting conditions for local banks to provide financing to small and medium businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Rapporteur of the panel MP Saadoun Hammad said the bill calls for banks to provide financing of up to KD 250,000 to small and medium businesses after confirming they have been hit by the coronavirus.

The bill defines small businesses as those employing up to 50 workers with annual revenues of up to KD 750,000, while medium businesses are those that employ up to 150 workers and have up to KD 1.5 million in annual revenues. The bill stipulates that 80 percent of the loans will be guaranteed by the government, to be repaid over 10 years with a two-year grace period. The government has also submitted a similar draft law, in which it vowed to bear part of the interest.

The committee also studied a proposal filed by MP Osama Al-Munawer calling to reduce the fees of private schools and universities by 20 percent because of the pandemic. Munawer said the government asked for some time to study the proposal. The government also asked for time until tomorrow to respond to a draft law calling to defer the payment of loans for six months.

Separately, MP Osama Al-Shaheen yesterday submitted a proposal calling on authorities to open the recruitment of domestic helpers from all countries to help families ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-April. Kuwait recently eased a total ban on the entry of domestic helpers, allowing the return of maids or new recruits from a number of countries. Shaheen called to open up recruitment from everywhere.