By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The Cabinet gave its nod yesterday to allow the return of domestic helpers to Kuwait from all foreign countries in a move that could allow thousands of maids to return after they were barred by the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah has meanwhile told the Cabinet that the number of deaths in the country from coronavirus has been increasing, but the number of cases at intensive care units has stabilized.
During its extraordinary meeting, the Cabinet approved a plan put forward by the authorities to allow the return of domestic helpers and asked the concerned authorities to complete legal aspects and detailed procedures for their return, according to government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem. The plan should be carried out while implementing all necessary health precautions, the Cabinet said, stressing on the need that all returnees undergo compulsory quarantine in special houses for two weeks.
The plan consists of two parts; the first involves the procedures of travel which begin with the sponsors registering their helpers online and then managing their arrival at Kuwait Airport and transporting then to the quarantines. The second part involves the financial affairs of the quarantines and other logistical procedures including transportation, catering and medical tests.
The Cabinet statement did not provide details about the cost of repatriating the maids, but it asked concerned authorities to complete the necessary legal procedures and the details of the plan. Kuwait has barred tens of thousands of expats from some 34 countries to return to the country over concerns of spreading the coronavirus. Those countries include India, Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka which have the largest expat communities in Kuwait.
In the meantime, the number of expats which was about 3.3 million before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, has dwindled to just 2.65 million, Al-Rai newspaper reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources. The source said that the residences of at least 147,000 expats have expired during the pandemic and tens of thousands of expats departed for their home countries.
The sources added that as many as 365,000 expats who have valid residence permits in the country, are currently living abroad, adding that 132,000 expats are living illegally in the country and around 40,000 of them are expected to benefit from a new amnesty starting next month to legalize their stay.
The lower court meanwhile upheld the interior ministry decision to bar seven candidates from running in next month’s election but scrapped similar decisions against eight candidates. The interior ministry two weeks ago disqualified 34 candidates from contesting the general election on December 5 on various grounds, mainly over final court verdicts involving financial cases. A number of those were disqualified for receiving verdicts on political groups.
Those whom the court confirmed their disqualification include former Islamist opposition MP Bader Al-Dahoum and opposition activist Ahmad Al-Fiker, both for being convicted for storming the assembly building in 2011 following an opposition protest. Others include candidate Hani Hussein, Nadia Al-Othman, Fadhel Al-Dabous and others.
Dahoum said after the verdict that he will challenge the ruling at the court of appeals. The courts must issue a final verdict on the case before the election date. Dahoum’s lawyer Yousef Al-Harbash said the ruling was wrong because it was based on a law issued years after his client’s conviction and the law does not apply to cases that happened in the past. He said he will file an appeal.
Those whom the court scrapped their disqualification include Salah Al-Hashem, the brother of MP Safa Al-Hashem. The two are contesting for seats in the third constituency. They also include candidate Ayedh Bukhousa from the fifth constituency and Talal Dashti, the son of self-exiled former MP Abdulhameed Dashti.
Head of the Judicial Council Ahmad Al-Ajeel Said yesterday that authorities are studying whether to ban those who were infected with the coronavirus from voting. The Cabinet was expected to decide on the issue.
Source: Kuwait Times
By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The health ministry announced that vaccinations for the winter season will be limited to Kuwaitis only at polyclinics for the time being, in light of the current circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic. The health ministry has imported 400,000 doses of vaccines and distributed more than 100,000 doses of influenza vaccines and 70,000 doses of pneumonia vaccines to 34 clinics and vaccination centers around the country.
The ministry said it administered around 150,000 doses of flu vaccines and 75,000 doses of pneumonia vaccines last year, adding it is expecting an increase in the number of people seeking flu shots this year. The health ministry launched its seasonal winter vaccination campaign against seasonal flu and pneumococcal pneumonia on Oct 15, with officials urging the public to get vaccinated at the nearest health center.
After reports of crowding and long lines as people rushed to health centers, there were calls on social media to limit flu shots to Kuwaitis only. But the latest decision by the ministry was met with outrage online, with a Kuwaiti doctor labeling the provision of healthcare based on nationality “one of the worst forms of racism”.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly’s human resources development committee yesterday approved amendments to the population law proposed by the government and MPs ahead of the debate in the Assembly tomorrow. Head of the committee MP Khalil Al-Saleh said the panel’s decision was unanimous, but he did not provide details of the amendments, which will be taken up for debate in the Assembly in the second reading of the law.
The law was approved by the Assembly in the first reading about two weeks ago, but the 12 Cabinet members present voted against the law. The law aims at reducing the number of expats in the country gradually over the next five years. It also wants the government to set a ceiling for the number of expats needed by the country and also calls for setting quotas of various expat communities.
Local media said the government objected to two main points – it does not want the law to oblige the government to set a ceiling for expats and also objected to the proposed quota system. MP Saleh said the committee met last week with four ministers and 15 government agencies related to the population issue and heard their viewpoints on the law.
Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem meanwhile invited lawmakers and the government for a shortened Assembly term to be held on Oct 20 to discuss a number of laws and issues. HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is expected to open the term.
A number of opposition MPs at the weekend submitted a letter to the Assembly calling to debate amendments to the election law after the interior and defense panel failed to discuss the proposed amendments. The letter said that since the concerned panel failed to do its job, the Assembly should debate the proposals directly and decide on them.
The main amendment calls for changing the voting system by allowing voters to elect two candidates instead of one in the existing law. MPs claim that the one-vote system introduced in late 2012 has harmed the democratic process in the country and should be amended.
MP Saleh Ashour meanwhile called for a comprehensive solution to thousands of stateless people or bedoons living in the country. Any solution should focus on the humanitarian situation of the bedoons by providing them with jobs, healthcare and education among other things.
Source: Kuwait Times
By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: It’s been nearly two months since public transport was allowed to operate again in Kuwait while adhering to strict health measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. While wearing facemasks and maintaining social distancing are still required to ride on public buses, the demand for public transport limits the options for social distancing onboard during peak times. But social distancing measures remain in place during slower periods.
Several passengers have complained that some bus drivers tend to ignore health guidelines during peak hours in favor of picking up as many passengers as possible. “I always ride bus number 66X from Salmiya to Farwaniya, and I have noticed the drivers don’t care at all if the buses are full. They still accept passengers and don’t care about social distancing,” said Maricel, a regular public transport user. She said during rush hours from 6 am to 8 am and from 6 pm to 8 pm, buses are filled to capacity.
“No social distancing and no police stopping them as well. The problem inside the bus is that some of the passengers are not wearing facemasks – yes they have a mask on their faces, but they don’t wear it properly; they put it on their chin allowing them to breathe feely and release the virus if they have it. I have observed this many times and that is why when in the bus, I never remove my facemask,” she said.
This reporter traveled by bus from Kuwait City to Salmiya and from Salmiya to Hawally during slower hours and noticed many buses were half empty and people were strictly observing social distancing. “Thank God my work starts at 2 pm, so I normally ride the bus from 1 pm onwards and back home at 9 pm, so I never encounter rush hours. So I am safe,” he said.
On Aug 18, 2020 – after a five-month absence due to coronavirus restrictions – public buses returned to the streets. But along with the return of buses was a 50-fils increase in minimum fare across the board. Public buses were told to strictly implement health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seats in buses have stickers with a message to leave them empty to observe a two-meter distance between passengers.
Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC) has come up with a slogan ‘Together We Can Go Back to Public Transport Safely’ that is plastered at its stations and bus stops. Some stickers pasted at the main depot in Mirqab remind passengers on ways to be safe while using public transportation. The stickers also remind passengers that in case they are sick or have high fever, they must not use public transportation and stay at home instead. They also seek the cooperation of all passengers to not underestimate this pandemic.
Besides KPTC which is owned by the government, there are two more private bus operators in Kuwait – City Bus and Kuwait Gulf Link. In 2016, usage of public transport was 2 percent, a drop from 5 percent in 2006, while private car usage increased by 65 percent between 2006 and 2016. Private cars make up 80 percent of vehicles on the road, with around 1.6 million cars, according to statistics from the interior ministry.
Source: Kuwait Times
By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Nearly a quarter of a million expatriates have left the country for good after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. In three months alone till July, 167,000 expats left the country, and according to estimates, the number could rise to more than 1 million, reported Al-Rai Arabic daily. Many real estate companies were directly hit by the exodus and are suffering from low occupancy rates.
“Many of our flats are empty; earlier we used to have almost full occupancy, but now that many expats have left the country, many of our flats are without tenants,” a real estate company told Kuwait Times. To cope with the sudden decline in occupants, several apartment owners resorted to cut the monthly rent by KD 20 to KD 40 per month for new renters, although there are no discounts for existing tenants.
“I am shifting to another flat as the rent is only KD 270 compared to KD 310 we are currently paying. The flat owner did not want to give even a KD 10 discount, so when I found an empty flat nearby, I told my roommates that we are moving. They all agreed, so we are going to shift next month,” said Marz, a tenant. In order to save money, many expat ‘bachelors’ and families share apartments. “We are three families in one flat. We all agreed to move because it means huge savings for us,” he added.
Two-bedroom apartments usually priced at KD 350 are now available for KD 270. Most of these types of apartments can be found in Salmiya, Hawally, Maidan Hawally, Farwaniya and as far afield as Mahboula and Fahaheel. Saeed, an Egyptian haris (building janitor), confirmed that flats in Hawally that usually went for KD 320 are now being rented for KD 280. A studio apartment in Salmiya which earlier cost KD 210 is now at KD 180.
He said there are no new takers these days except for those already in the country prior to the pandemic. No new people are coming in, so there are many empty flats, and in order for the flats to be fully occupied, they need to lower the price. “The building owner said they want our building to be fully occupied. We have a few empty flats and I hope I can give more discounts,” Saeed said.
“The rent value of flats is reasonable now – it’s a good discount compared to the price before COVID-19,” he said. “Expats are shifting from one flat to another for cheaper rent, but people are also paying more if they find a location favorable to them,” he said.
When moving to a new building in Kuwait, the haris usually demanded a ‘gift’ or ‘ikramiya’ of KD 60 to KD 100 and even more, but this practice has been completely eliminated now. “Before COVID, when I moved to our flat, I was told to pay KD 100 to the haris apart from the rent. I paid because they said it was a tradition. But now I am not obliged to pay anything,” Marz said.
Source: Kuwait times
By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: The new 2020-2021 academic year began yesterday at public and private Arabic schools, with classes held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. At some schools, teachers conducted online classes from classrooms, while other teachers taught students from home. The new school year at non-Arabic private schools began weeks ago.
Many teachers, parents and students expressed their support for the new virtual learning system adopted by the ministry of education, but there are concerns too, especially regarding primary and kindergarten students. “My feeling today is a mix of wariness and happiness because schools finally reopened. But I am not very convinced with online classes. I don’t know whether my kids will be able to learn,” said Mariam Al-Zankawi, a mother of four young children.
“I still prefer traditional schooling because kids are on the school campus and are instructed by teachers. They can learn quickly because they compete with their peers,” she told Kuwait Times. “One of my children is in grade 1, so I know he will need help once in a while. I am working at a ministry, so that’s a problem. But my eldest daughter is 21 and waiting to be employed, so she is supervising her brother during online classes. Many families facing a similar problem have entrusted supervision of their children to their housemaids,” Zankawi said.
“Before the start of classes today, the school conducted ample training for teachers and students, so I know everything will be okay. We are prepared, but we all have to understand the situation right now,” she said. “We can use desktop computers, laptops or tablets for the online classes and must have a speedy Internet connection. So I bought devices for my three children. We were told to select a quiet and comfortable place and all distractions must be removed from the room. We were also told to guide our children if needed,” added Zankawi.
Sarah Abdullah Al-Kandari, a single mother, said her children are ready for online classes. She said since she is not working, she will be by the side of her students. “We are all experiencing a new and extraordinary era and things are not easy for parents, teachers and students, but we have to do what is right. My students are in high school and they know what to do,” said Kandari, whose daughters are in grade 11 and 10 and son in grade 8.
“For me, it’s a blessing, as I can help them because I will be at home all the time. It’s also restful because usually I take them to school every day,” she told Kuwait Times. Kandari’s husband died a few years ago and she is raising her three children alone. “I am not working anymore, but all of my kids are supported by the Kuwaiti government,” she added.
Classes for kindergarten will be held from 8 am to 9:30 am, with four classes daily of 15 minutes each. Elementary students will have four 30-minute classes for each subject from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Intermediate students will have four 30-minute classes daily from 8 am to 10:30 am, while secondary students will also have four classes daily from 10:40 am to 1:30 pm.
Source: Kuwait Times
KUWAIT: The interior ministry’s assistant undersecretary for traffic and operations affairs Maj Gen Jamal Al-Sayegh instructed all traffic departments and traffic sections at citizen service centers to stop issuing driving licenses to expat students registered at government and private universities and the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training as well as to nurses working in public and private hospitals.
The instructions were issued after the activation of ministerial decision 270/2020 amending previous decision 81/1979 pertaining the traffic law’s executive charter, according to a report in Al-Jarida Arabic daily. “This ministerial decision was issued on March 18, 2020 at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, but was not put into practice due to the health situation in Kuwait, and accordingly all government bodies were shut down,” Sayegh said.
He noted that since those bodies started receiving the public based on Cabinet decisions to gradually resume normal life activities, the decision was activated and driving licenses will no longer be issued to expat students and nurses. Sayegh added the decision exempts children, spouses, widows and divorcees of Kuwaiti citizens as well as illegal residents (bedoons) with valid central apparatus and health insurance IDs.
“The decision will not apply to students and nurses whose licenses were issued prior to resolution number 270/2020,” Sayegh underlined. He pointed that according to interior ministry systems, the total number of driving licenses issued to citizens is 648,383, while 822,794 were issued to expats. Vehicles with valid insurance number 2,293,785.
Source: Kuwait Times
KUWAIT: His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received a cable of condolences yesterday from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, on the passing of His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Saudi King also congratulated the Amir on assuming power. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said in his cable, “We received with utmost sorrow the news of the death of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, may Allah bestow mercy upon him.
We lost a dear brother and friend who served his country and nation wholeheartedly and contributed to serving the causes of the Arab and Islamic nations. We pray to Allah Almighty to bestow mercy upon him and rest him in His widely vast paradise and to grant you and the people of Kuwait patience and solace.”
“We offer to you and the people of the State of Kuwait sincere condolences, assuring you and the people of Kuwait our stand with you in these circumstances and that the Kingdom and Kuwait, throughout history, are tied by deep-rooted and distinguished bilateral relations. We congratulate you on assuming the power in the State of Kuwait, praying to Allah Almighty to grant you success and help you to serve Kuwait and its people, wishing Kuwait further security, progress, stability and prosperity,” reads the statement released by the Saudi News Agency (SPA).
Meanwhile, King Abdullah II of Jordan, in a phone call His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad, expressed condolences over the passing of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad. King Abdullah said the Arab and Islamic nations lost a wise leader who dedicated his life to the service of his country and all humanity. King Abdullah also expressed best wishes to His Highness Sheikh Nawaf, who was sworn in as Amir of Kuwait, and stressed the deep-rooted, brotherly ties between Jordan and Kuwait, according to a statement released by the Jordanian news agency (Petra).
Meanwhile, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received a cable of condolences from Egyptian President Abdulfattah Al-Sisi, on the demise of His Highness the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. In the cable the Egyptian President expressed deepest condolences and sympathy to His Highness the Amir, Kuwait government and people on the decease of His Highness the late Amir of Kuwait, asking Almighty Allah to bestow mercy on his soul. In return, His Highness the Amir sent him cable of thanks and appreciation for the sincere sympathy and condolences, wishing him good health and wellness.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad also received a cable of condolences from Tunisian President Kais Saied, on the demise of His Highness the late Amir. In the cable, the Tunisian President expressed deepest condolences and sympathy to His Highness the Amir, Kuwait government and people on the decease of His Highness the late Amir of Kuwait, asking Almighty Allah to bestow mercy on his soul. In return, His Highness the Amir sent cables of thanks and appreciation for the sincere sympathy and condolences, wishing him good health and wellness.
Furthermore, His Highness Sheikh Nawaf received a cable of condolences from Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on the demise of His Highness Sheikh Sabah. In the cable the Algerian ruler expressed deepest condolences and sympathy to his Highness the Amir, Kuwait government and people on the decease of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait, asking Almighty Allah to bestow mercy on his soul. In return, His Highness the Amir sent cables of thanks and appreciation for the sincere sympathy and condolences, wishing him good health and wellness.
His Highness Sheikh Nawaf also received a cable of condolences from Italian President Sergio Matarella expressing sympathy for the demise of His Highness Sheikh Sabah. In return, His Highness the Amir sent cables of thanks and appreciation for the sincere sympathy and condolences, wishing him good health and wellness.
Source: Kuwait Times