By B Izzak and Agencies
KUWAIT: Kuwait will manage the coronavirus crisis as long as it takes, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said yesterday during a meeting with senior commanders at the defense ministry headed by Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Sheikh Ahmad Mansour Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. “The defense ministry has been an integral part of the state’s emergency plan since day one,” the premier pointed out, stressing that the current crisis requires “solidarity and understanding from all regarding countermeasures being taken”.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled appreciated the contributions and cooperation of the private sector in the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the virus and highly commended the thousands of young Kuwaitis who flocked to centers to volunteer and help the state.
Kuwait has donated $40 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) in contribution to the fight against the spread of COVID-19. The donation came upon directions from HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to help efforts of the international organization in its battle to contain the pandemic, said Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah in a press release.
The Central Bank of Kuwait announced measures have been implemented to contain the impact of COVID-19. These include a KD 10 million fund initiated by CBK with Kuwaiti banks to support COVID-19 containment efforts, delaying collection of due payments from affected customers without any penalty for three months; refraining from selling assets pledged as collateral, a 1.25% reduction in interest rates in March to lower borrowing costs, stopping charges on points of sale, ATM and online transactions for three months and providing uninterrupted access to financial services through online banking. ATMs, POS, call centers and selected branches.
Lawmakers yesterday called on Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh for the need to deport between 100,000 and 160,000 expats living illegally in the country by providing them with an amnesty and a free air ticket. Meanehile, Saleh again warned people to stay away from gatherings, especially weddings and diwaniyas, or face the possibility of living under curfew, insisting that it remains an option.
The issues came up during a meeting between some 20 MPs and Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem and Saleh to discuss several issues related to the coronavirus measures. MP Abdullah Al-Kandari said there are 160,000 illegal residents in the country and “work is ongoing to provide them with facilities to leave the country”.
MP Adel Al-Damkhi said MPs discussed with the interior minister the issue of the demographic structure and demanded that residential areas with “bachelors” should be cordoned off. MP Yousef Al-Fadhalah said lawmakers called on the minister to deport illegal expats and a meeting will be held with the minister of social affairs today or tomorrow over the issue.
MP Saadoun Hammad said the government gave provisional approval to defer repaying of loans for six months, adding that MPs demanded ending the school year now and deporting illegal expats, adding that there is a proposal to offer them free air tickets. Ghanem said MPs called on the government during the meeting to defer loan repayments for six months and expressed hope the response will be positive. The meeting also discussed repatriating thousands of Kuwaitis from abroad, which has been delayed until the government can prepare enough quarantine sites to keep them.
The health ministry meanwhile announced seven new cases, raising the total number to 130, of whom 12 have recovered and were discharged. Of the 118 cases under observation, four remain in the intensive care unit. Health Ministry Spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said all the seven new cases are of Kuwaiti citizens returning from the UK.
Sanad warned the slightest sign of easing up in the fight against COVID-19 will spell danger and catastrophe for the Kuwaiti society. He affirmed individuals and institutions have a shared responsibility in protecting the society from the menace of coronavirus, indicating that so far, measures carried out in Kuwait call for optimism and hope. Sanad pointed out that all members of the health force are following proper protocols in addressing any situation connected with COVID-19, indicating that efforts have been successful in managing the crisis.
The ministry of health said in a new statement yesterday said that people coming from 12 countries – Britain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United States will be quarantined. It called on people coming from all other countries to stay at home for 14 days and not to go to work. It advised them also to contact the ministry on the hotline 151.