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Kuwait in virtual lockdown – Flights, Banks, restaurants, shopping centers closed


HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah chairing Wednesday’s emergency Cabinet meeting

GENEVA, March 11, (Agencies): The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic as the respiratory virus has so far killed over 4,500 and infected over 124,000 worldwide.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

He pointed out that the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries tripled in the past two weeks. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he forecasted. The government of Kuwait, in an extraordinary session Wednesday, decided to suspend work in all government departments as of Thursday March 12, to be resumed on Sunday March 29, the government spokesman said.

Tareq Al-Mezrem, in a news conference announcing the decision, said the Council of Ministers considered this period as an official holiday. He added the government assigned Deputy Premier, Minister of Interior and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh to coordinate with Ministry of Health and relevant authorities to make sure vital sectors work normally. The government’s decision is part of the state’s efforts to confront spread of coronavirus

Crowds seen at one of the supermarkets stockpiling for holidays.

Flights suspended
The Cabinet also decided to suspend commercial air traffic in Kuwait International Airport as of midnight Friday, March 13, part of efforts to confront spread of coronavirus. “Incoming flights to Kuwait International Airport will be restricted to Kuwaiti travelers and first-degree relatives,” government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem told the news conference following the Cabinet meeting. He, however, said cargo airplanes would operate normally. Al-Mezrem said a ministerial committee tasked with addressing COVID-19 was coordinating with relevant authorities to implement the suspension. The government’s decision is part of the state’s efforts to confront spread of coronavirus.

Long queues can be seen at the petrol filling stations fearing shortage of fuel in the coming days.

Banks shut doors
Banks in Kuwait will close their doors as of Thursday, March 12, and will reopen on Sunday, March 29, Kuwait Banking Association (KBA) announced Wednesday, after the government decided to suspend work in government departments for same period. KBA Board Chairman Adel Al-Majed said only one branch of every bank would be open in every Governorate. Kuwait has six Governorates. He said the decision was adopted after the government decided to consider the same period an official holiday. Al-Majed said the banks would continue offering electronic services, including local and international money transfer. He said the banks would supply the ATM machines with cash to enable people withdraw money. This was all part of the government’s efforts to confront spread of coronavirus.

Kuwaitis and expatriates thronged to the Kuwait Flour Mills Company to buy bread after the Kuwait government announced two weeks of holidays to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Gatherings banned
The government of Kuwait, part of its quest to confront coronavirus spread, decided Wednesday to ban gatherings at restaurants and coffee shops, including those inside shopping malls. Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem, at a news conference at Seef Palace following a Cabinet meeting, said the Council of Ministers also decided to shut down private sport clubs. The government’s decision is part of the state’s efforts to confront spread of coronavirus. Authorities are preparing and equipping a new center for screening incoming expatriates of coronavirus infections at the fair ground in the district of Mishref, an official of the ministry of health announced on Wednesday. Abdulaziz Al-Tasha, the assistant undersecretary for services affairs, said in a statement to KUNA that the new center would admit people for testing on daily basis. He was speaking to the Kuwaiti news agency during a tour of the location where the new center was being prepared.

3 new cases confirmed
Three more persons have tested positive for being infected with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, Ministry of Health Spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad announced on Wednesday. Dr Al-Sanad told a daily press briefing that one of the infected persons had travelled to Iran, an Egyptian and a Sudanese were in close contact with an infected person who had come from Azerbaijan. There are five infected persons at the intensive case unit, including one in critical condition and four stable. Total number of people who have been infected with the contagious disease stands at 70, he announced. Two of the patients had recovered, he added

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