KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah addresses the nation yesterday. – KUNA

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday urged thousands of Kuwaiti citizens repatriated from abroad to strictly comply with health instructions, especially home quarantine, in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Addressing the nation to welcome the return of Kuwaitis from abroad, HH the Amir said that the government has exerted all efforts and taken all necessary measures to ward off the dangers of the coronavirus and safeguard the health of people in Kuwait.

HH the Amir said that failing to abide by health instructions could cause a high loss of life. He added that Kuwait, like the rest of the world, is still passing through a very dangerous crisis while confronting the spread of the coronavirus. In the televised speech, HH the Amir said he and the government took every care to ensure the return of thousands of Kuwaitis to their homes before the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and congratulated the repatriated citizens and their relatives on their safe return.

Cooperation, solidarity, and commitment to all guidelines will help us defeat the pandemic and record as minimal damage as possible, affirmed HH Sheikh Sabah. He reiterated his appreciation to the Cabinet, the people of Kuwait, as well as the public and private sectors for their efforts to counter the spread of the coronavirus to protect all citizens and expatriates alike.

The health ministry said yesterday that the number of COVID-19 infections in Kuwait reached 164 in the last 24 hours, in addition to a single death case of an Indian resident. Official spokesperson of the ministry of health Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said in his daily briefing that the number of infections in Kuwait rose to 1,915. Contact cases reached 158, including six Kuwaitis, 97 Indian residents, 13 Bangladeshis, 26 Egyptians, eight Pakistanis, an American, a Saudi, a Sudanese, a Palestinian, a Lebanese and an Iranian.

An air bridge was launched yesterday to repatriate thousands of Kuwaitis who have been stranded abroad by the coronavirus shutdowns. The three-phase program is expected to repatriate up to 50,000 Kuwaitis from several countries. The first phase, to last until Tuesday, will operate 75 flights, starting with several flights from Gulf countries. The first flight to return was a Kuwait Airways flight from Dubai. The second phase is scheduled to commence on April 25 and the entire program will be completed on May 7.

Islamist MP Adel Al-Damkhi yesterday submitted a proposal calling on landlords in general and the ministry of awqaf and Islamic affairs in particular to reduce rents amid an economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus. The lawmaker, who heads the National Assembly’s human rights committee, said the coronavirus has severely impacted the economy all over the world, and as a result, the income of many people has been negatively affected, making it difficult for them to meet essential spending needs.

He said that almost all shops and companies were forced to shut down as countries imposed curfews and lockdowns to combat the deadly disease. In his proposal, Damkhi called on the Islamic endowment department, which owns and manages scores of buildings, to completely or partially waive rentals of its real estate for a limited period as a kind of help to tenants. He also called for launching an awareness campaign to urge landlords to do the same. Already, hundreds of landlords in Kuwait have substantially cut rents to help affected tenants, a majority of them expatriates.

Fifteen Kuwaiti lawmakers, most of them from the opposition, have sent a petition to HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah appealing him to pardon a group of former opposition MPs and activists who have been living in exile for almost two years. The ex-MPs and activists fled to Turkey in the summer of 2018, just before Kuwait’s cassation court passed jail terms against them for storming the National Assembly building in a protest in 2011. The lawmakers said that due to the spread of the coronavirus all over the world, it becomes urgent to allow Kuwaiti citizens to return.