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LAST week, I went to three commercial complexes in Kuwait City. I haven’t been to these complexes since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent decisions taken by the Minister of Health Sheikh Basel Al-Malek to impose ban and closure in the country.
I was shocked and experienced unprecedented pain mentally during my visit. Two of the complexes, which do not have any offices on the upper floors, were almost empty of customers. I do not exaggerate when I say that I was alone when I was going from one store to another. There were just one or two people besides me on each floor, and most of them were employees or salesmen of these stores.
Customers are not to be blamed for not wanting to visit these malls for fear of contracting the virus, as the number of COVID-19 cases exceeded a quarter of a million in Kuwait a few days ago despite the decisions of the Ministry of Health, which did not take into consideration the results and consequences.
However, the great shock I sustained from these visits was that many of the shops in these commercial complexes were also empty. This means the owners ended their contracts with the management of the complexes, removed all of their goods, and ended their contracts with their workers. This is an unprecedented matter. I have never personally witnessed anything like this during the period from the 1950s to the present day.
Before God blessed us with oil, the people of Kuwait lived on income earned from their shops and stores including groceries, blankets, shoes, glasses, electrical tools, and simple means of transportation such as bicycles, fabrics, etc.
A minister has come to us and caused the people of the stores in the 21st-century-Kuwait to go bankrupt, and cut off the livelihoods of their workers and employees.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health could have obligated the visitors of these commercial markets to adhere to physical distancing, wear masks, and follow other precautionary measures. It is possible to succeed in implementing these measures, as seen in a number of sisterly countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other countries where the number of COVID-19 cases has decreased.
Nevertheless, our Minister of Health, who drowned us with his ill-considered decisions and then changed them very quickly, does not think that such decisions were not studied. He believes in the proverb — “Close the door from where the wind comes”. However, the door that he had closed increased the number of cases of this dreaded disease.
The problem also lies in the fact that Kuwait’s decisions related to COVID-19 are not applied to everyone equally. The government has turned a blind eye to some nationalities in entering Kuwait, and does not show firmness with them like it does with the Kuwaitis.
We also saw the government turn a blind eye to some Kuwaiti groups in the last elections when they held their by-elections and received congratulations for winning, and during the official elections.
Through these modest lines, we, call on His Highness the Prime Minister and the young Minister of Health Dr Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah as well as the members of his ministry to reconsider their random arbitrary decisions, and be satisfied with guiding and using the iron fist in implementing the precautionary measures, because the people of Kuwait are calling on them day and night due to their repeated mistakes in dealing with this pandemic.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil