KUWAIT: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday urged nationals who are currently abroad to return home. In light of a statement made earlier by Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Minister of Interior Anas Al-Saleh calling on citizens to abstain from travelling except for necessities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Kuwaiti nationals who are abroad to return to Kuwait. The Foreign Ministry said the call was intended to spare them hazards of infection of coronavirus and relieve them of rapid and changing precautions for entry and departure for travelers, undertaken by states as precautions against the virus. Saleh had urged Kuwaitis to refrain from traveling as part of the wide-scale government efforts in the face of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) has directed all local banks to take preventive measures so as to face the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to protect employees and customers through providing sterilization materials and facemasks as well as all required preventive equipment. In a press statement issued on Thursday, the bank stressed its keenness on the safety of all workers and customers in the banking sector.

The bank also affirmed working on integration with all efforts made by all concerned bodies in Kuwait to face the virus and prevent its spread, the statement noted. It asked the banks to provide all preventive equipment, mouth-masks and sterilization materials at all locations of automated teller machines (ATMs), and direct all customers to use them necessarily before and after using the ATMs, it pointed out. All local banks must urge their customers to benefit from e-channels through the applications of smartphones or e-location to make transactions without going to braches, if not necessary, it stated.

The banks also are asked to appeal to their customers to use bankcards instead of banknotes, according to the statement. In addition, the CBK called on the banks to write awareness messages on means of protection instructed by the Ministry of Health through its accounts on social media and other channels so as to target the largest segment of customers, the statement concluded.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health announced Thursday morning that a total of 43 people are now confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. All those infected are under medical care. Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission announced suspending the use of the biometric fingerprint system for employees access registration at all state departments starting March 1.

In the meantime, the education ministry said it has shifted all finals tests for all school stages to after the Eid holiday. The teaching curriculum will also be adjusted to accommodate the change in schedules, while a plan to implement preventive measures against the spread of the virus in school will be put in place at all schools, the ministry announced Thursday. An unknown number of citizens remain in quarantine at local hotels and in their homes.

Kuwait has ordered its citizens leaving the country to GCC states or coming back from there to use their passports instead of their civil IDs so that authorities can verify their transactions and make sure about their potential visit to countries hit by the coronavirus. This decision Kuwait’s interior ministry announced Thursday also includes GCC nationals wishing to visit Kuwait. However, it does not include citizens who are already in a GCC country and have used their IDs in their exit, nor does it include GCC citizens currently visiting Kuwait and who have used their IDs to enter.

In related news, Saudi Arabia has suspended entry to the country for the purpose of umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily, suspended entry for tourist visas for those coming from countries in which the spread of the new coronavirus is a danger, and suspended use by Saudi nationals and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council states of the national identity card to travel to and from the Kingdom, with a few exceptions reported the Saudi Press Agency. Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has also announced that Doha will evacuate any Qatari nationals and Kuwaiti nationals remaining in Iran, which has been badly hit by the virus.