KUWAIT: Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah inaugurates the World Health Organization’s new headquarters in Kuwait yesterday. – KUNA

KUWAIT: The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the opening of its new headquarters in Kuwait would serve as a launchpad for better cooperation, with the host country hailing the move as a significant development. Kuwait has been among WHO’s “trusted partners” in the fight against the COVID pandemic, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a lavish ceremony to inaugurate the office, where he was joined by Kuwait’s Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah and a number of diplomats.

Kuwait’s relationship with the global health body is “dotted with highlights and accomplishments”, Sheikh Basel said, adding that the office is “part and parcel” of a national development plan that largely revolves around healthcare. “No words can adequately describe Foreign Minister and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Nasser Al-Sabah’s immense contributions towards this initiative,” he said, at a time when the pandemic has strained healthcare systems the world over.

The success of any nation’s development plan hinges on how adept its healthcare system is, Sheikh Basel explained, terming the sector as the “focal point of national development”. The office represents a “hallmark” of Kuwait’s storied relationship with WHO, which has “grown stronger” in the face of adversity, said Tarek El Sheikh, the UN Secretary General’s Representative and Resident Coordinator to the country. He acknowledged Kuwait’s “lifesaving support” given to millions around the globe, ranging from victims of conflicts to natural disasters, all of whom were the ultimate beneficiaries of crucial aid that helped them withstand such distress.

Similarly, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said better ties with Kuwait has been among his “core objectives”, describing the country as one of the health body’s most “historic partners”. “The office will be instrumental in pushing our common agendas of providing indispensable healthcare to everybody in the Middle East region,” he added. WHO has more than a dozen offices around the region, all of which play an integral role in supporting its global mission, covering areas from public relations to business management.

Sheikh Basel said yesterday the ministry is investigating a number of cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus – previously known as the Indian variant – recently discovered in Kuwait. The minister provided no details on the number of cases detected or how they were found and whether it originated in the country or came from outside.

Speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony, Sheikh Dr Basel affirmed that combating various strains of the coronavirus including the Delta variant requires similar measures, including vaccination, social distancing, wearing facemasks, washing hands, not leaving home unless necessary and traveling only for urgent reasons. Sheikh Basel said COVID-19 continues to breed diverse mutations, but expected the Delta variant will be the predominant variant of the coronavirus around the world in the future.

Meanwhile, MP Khalil Al-Saleh said the National Assembly health panel has decided to invite the minister to an urgent meeting to discuss the ministry’s measures in combating the Delta variant. No date has been fixed for the proposed meeting. – Agencies