KUWAIT: Cars jam the streets of Shuwaikh as people panic buy on Saturday before a total lockdown began yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: A decision by the government to place the country under a total lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus took effect at 4 pm yesterday and continues until May 30. Only essential services, in addition to the military, police and security agencies and medical services will be allowed to operate. Food and essential supplies will be accessed through an online reservation system of cooperative societies. Prior reservations can be made at www.moci.shop.

Authorities have appealed to the public to stay indoors to avoid the deadly disease and health authorities said they plan a testing campaign to detect infections. About 163 coronavirus cases have been detected at Khaldiya and Adailiya cooperative societies, forcing them to shut down for sterilization. Khaldiya Cooperative Society said as many as 103 of its workers tested positive, while MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain said another 60 workers at Adailiya Co-op also tested positive.

Several MPs called on the health ministry to launch a concerted campaign to test employees at all cooperative societies and supermarkets. The state-owned Flour Mills Co said it has plenty of supplies to provide all types of bread throughout the lockdown. The health ministry announced that a second physician has died of coronavirus. Vasudeva Rao, a 54-year-old dentist, was working at Kuwait Oil Co hospital where he contracted the disease. Two days ago, an Egyptian doctor, Tareq Hussein, also died of the disease.

The National Assembly was to decide later yesterday whether to go ahead and hold the emergency Assembly session scheduled for Tuesday, as a number of lawmakers called for holding the session. The Assembly’s health and labor committee is scheduled to debate new government amendments to the labor law allowing distressed companies to reduce the salaries of employees after the approval of the ministry of social affairs.

The bill was debated last week but the government withdrew the amendments after lawmakers wanted guarantees that the measures will not apply to over 55,000 Kuwaitis employed in the private sector. Rapporteur of the committee MP Saadoun Hammad said the new government proposals do not clearly stipulate guarantees for Kuwaitis, adding that he will submit such amendments.

The interior ministry said yesterday it has referred a volunteer at a cooperative society for investigation after he was shown physically assaulting an expatriate shopper in a video posted on social media. The ministry said legal measures have been initiated against the volunteer.

The civil aviation authority said yesterday that travelers are allowed to go to the airport during the lockdown provided they show a photocopy or an electronic image of the air ticket to the police if asked. Each traveler is allowed to be escorted by one driver who should also carry a copy of the ticket. The authority said that seven flights, including four to Cairo, were due to operate yesterday.