KUWAIT: Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mazrem speaks during a press conference yesterday as Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi looks on.

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The council of ministers yesterday extended the closure of schools and universities until August 4 as part of its measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but the government has not taken a decision on imposing curfew. Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi said the decision applies to public and private schools and that expat teachers can leave to their home countries and that the government will guarantee the payment of their salaries in full.

The minister said that the next school year will begin in December 2020, adding that the issue of payment of remaining fees to private schools has not been raised yet. Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mazrem said that students in August will complete what remains of the school year.

Following a meeting yesterday, the cabinet called on the ministries of interior and health to step up the implementation of orders and penalties against violators of government directives regarding the coronavirus. But Mazrem said the cabinet did not declare curfew but it remains an option and will be imposed when the health authorities see it is necessary. The cabinet also ordered the defense and health ministries to prepare the international fair grounds as a field hospital in case it is needed to treat coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanem said the assembly will hold its session on March 24 in order to approve two draft laws to toughen penalties on those who violate government directives or deliberately spread the disease. Another bill deals with delaying court cases and petitions until after the crisis. Ghanem said that the session will be brief and only MPs and a small number of employees will attend and all will have to test for the coronavirus on Sunday.

The ministry of health meanwhile announced six new cases of coronavirus raising the total to 148. The health minister announced that three more cases recovered to bring the total to up to 18. Of the new cases, four have returned from UK, two came in contact with the returnees, one of them a Filipina maid.

Of the 130 cases receiving treatment, five are at the intensive care unit with three of them in critical condition, according to the ministry. As many as 574 people have been released from quarantines. Health ministry spokesman Abdullah Al-Sanad said that the ministry has tested 35,000 expatriates for the virus and “some have shown symptoms of the disease” without providing further details about numbers.

In the meantime, MPs yesterday stepped up pressure on the government to declare the end of the school year by promoting students to the next grade. MP Saadoun Hammad said the decision will allow some 800,000 expat teachers and their families to leave for their home countries, thus reducing pressure on the country’s health system.