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Wednesday , April 21 2021

Thousands stranded in … outside Kuwait

Week hold on flights for some states

KUWAIT CITY, March 7: The Kuwait Health Ministry announced, Saturday, the discovery of three new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the last 24 hours. Health Ministry spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad indicated that all of the previously announced cases were in compulsory quarantine, adding that all of them have recently returned from Iran.

The number of those infected with the virus reached 61 with one case of recovery thus far. The Kuwaiti government, meanwhile, decided to tighten controls on flights to and from countries hit by novel coronavirus outbreaks.

During its emergency meeting, held at Al-Saif Palace on Friday night under the chairmanship of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Cabinet reviewed the measures adopted to stem the spread of COVID- 19 and protect the safety of public health. His Highness the Prime Minister briefed the Cabinet members on the efforts to provide the competent authorities with all resources necessary for protecting the safety of the health of citizens and expatriates in Kuwait, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Anas Al- Saleh following the meeting. Minister of Health Sheikh Dr Bassel Humoud Al-Sabah, who leads the interagency taskforce on COVID-19, briefed the meeting on latest figures of global outbreak of the epidemic and the related reports on its impact worldwide.

The Cabinet members appreciated the selfl ess efforts being made by the frontline medical workers who pursue their humanitarian mission restlessly. They reviewed the precautions relating to the airlines working in the country adopted since the emergence of the epidemic in January, including the suspension of flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Thailand, Italy, Singapore, Japan and Iraq. In the light of the Cabinet decree, adopted on Thursday, March 5, regarding the safety of foreign communities in Kuwait from the virus, they decided to suspend for one week all flights to and from Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

All arrivals in Kuwait from any other nationality or via airports other than those of the above-mentioned countries will be denied entry if they travelled to these countries in the last couple of weeks even if they have valid residency or visas.

Only Kuwaiti nationals living in those countries will be allowed in after undergoing the necessary quarantine measures, according to tonight’s decree. The Cabinet stressed that the new measures are meant to protect the safety of the health of the citizens and expatriate residents in Kuwait, asking everybody to understand the urgency of these measures.

Pinoys stranded Overseas
Filipinos Workers (OFWs) bound for Kuwait were denied entry to Kuwait while others transiting in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi enroute to Kuwait were not allowed anymore to board on to their connecting flight after the Kuwait General Directorate of Civil Aviation issued Circular No. 27 temporarily suspending all incoming flights to and from the Kuwait International Airport for countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt effective March 6, 2020 until one week as a precautionary measure in relation to the coronavirus disease.

“We were all taken by surprise by the circular that was released Friday midnight and that took effect immediately leaving our OFWs stranded in some of the airports enroute to Kuwait. They should have at least given a day or two for all the passengers included in the circular to reschedule their flights,” stated Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait Nasser Mustafa. However, he was quick to add that everyone covered by the circular must abide by it.

Speaking to the Arab Times from Riyadh, Mustafa disclosed that he contacted immediately the Department of Labor and Employment in Manila to mobilise all the Philippine Overseas Labor Office team in various countries in the Middle East region to monitor OFWs who may be stranded at the airports as a result of the circular.

In line with the recent development, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait issued a public advisory on Saturday for its nationals advising all Filipinos to postpone to a later date all their travels to and from Kuwait originally scheduled from March 7, 2020 to March 14, 2020. The advisory further stated that personnel from the Embassy and the POLO-OWWA are assisting Filipinos at the Kuwait International Airport who are affected by the said circular.

“Rest assured that we are monitoring Filipinos who may be stranded at the airport and we are ready to assist them,” stated Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Charleson Hermosura during a phone interview on Pinoy Arabia ME, a Filipino online radio based in Kuwait. Meanwhile, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac in a text message to the Arab Times disclosed that all OFWs affected by the flight cancellations to Kuwait are advised to approach the roving OWWA Officer or OWWA counter at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines or they can call the OWWA hotline 1348.

Cacdac also disclosed that per information from Philippine Labor Attache to Qatar David Des Dicang, Qatar Airways has a policy to arrange for the return of the passengers (cover cost) within 24 hours just in case some passengers are stranded. The POLO-OWWA in Doha has also fielded a monitoring team at the airport to assist stranded OFWs.

Meanwhile, in Dubai, there were 26 stranded OFWs as of noon Saturday and they were assisted by the Emirates Airlines, POLO and Dubai authorities, added Cacdac. “At the NAIA, we have assisted 9 stranded. The rest have either had means to leave NAIA or were advised of the cancellations via sms by the airline or were assisted by their Philippine Recruitment Agencies (PRA),” outlined Cacdac.

Also, 50 Filipinos coming from several countries arrived in Kuwait on transit early morning on Saturday but were stuck at the airport due to the flight cancellations. Sources confirmed that they have been billeted in a hotel inside the airport as they await their flight onward to the Philippines

Stand by Iran
Hoping its friendly people utmost safety while overcoming the spread of coronavirus, Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah on Friday expressed Kuwait’s empathy towards what the Islamic Republic is facing, to his Iranian counterpart.

In a phone call with its top diplomat Javad Zarif, Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Nasser also conveyed His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s directives to stand by Iran in this “difficult” health situation, as well as providing all that is needed to help limit the spread of the novel virus, said a foreign ministry statement.

On his part, Minister Zarif expressed the Islamic Republic’s sincerest appreciation; both to the Kuwaiti leadership and people, for the benevolent gesture. Latest official figures in Iran showed 17 new fatalities caused by coronavirus, with 1,234 confirmed cases across the country, raising the overall infected to 4,747 cases and bringing death toll to 124 people. In Kuwait, the Ministry of Health announced last night the first recovery of the virus, with the total number of confirmed cases still at 61.


By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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