Kuwait imposes entry ban as Covid-19 cases increase

Government imposes new restrictions after rising infection rate and discovery of travellers showing fake PCR test certificates

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 23, 2020 Medical staff stand ready at the Kuwait vaccination center for COVID-19 at the International Fairgrounds in Kuwait City. Sports stadiums, cathedrals and theme parks the world over have been rapidly repurposed as temporary vaccination centres in a global drive to administer the life-saving jabs. / AFP / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

Kuwait has imposed a two-week ban on the entry of foreigners from February 7, after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Government spokesman Tareq Al Mazrem announced the measure after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Medical personnel in the government and private sectors and members of the diplomatic corps are exempt from the ban. Foreigners who are first-degree relatives of Kuwaitis, such as parents and children as well as their accompanying domestic workers, are also exempted.

All arriving passengers will have to quarantine in local hotels for seven days at their own expense, followed by a seven-day home quarantine, Mr Al Mazrem said.

The civil aviation department has indefinitely extended the limit on passengers per flight to 35, which was due to end on February 6.

The Cabinet also ordered shops and restaurants to close from 8pm to 5am for one month from February 7, but allowed delivery services to continue.

Pharmacies, supermarkets and food stores are exempted, Mr Al Mazrem said.

The restrictions could be extended if the situation does not improve, he said.

All events and gatherings, including national holiday celebrations later this month, have also been cancelled.

Kuwait reported 756 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Daily infections fell below 300 late last year from a peak of more than 1,000 in May.

The Cabinet urged citizens and residents to comply with health guidelines and rules to help curb the surge in coronavirus cases.

The new restrictions came on the back of recent instances of some airline passengers carrying fake negative PCR test certificates while entering the country.

Mr Al Mazrem said if people did not co-operate and comply with health precautions such as wearing face masks and observing social distancing, the government would consider "additional" measures. He said authorities would take legal action against passengers arriving with fake PCR certificates.

The Kuwaiti ministry of foreign affairs advised citizens against overseas travel except when “absolutely necessary” because of the new variants of coronavirus spreading worldwide.

Assistant Undersecretary for Public Affairs Buthaina Al Mudhaf said on Wednesday that the health ministry had not detected any infection with the mutated strain from South Africa.

Kuwait has authorised the emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against the virus after a comprehensive evaluation of its safety, efficacy and quality, said Abdullah Al Bader, assistant undersecretary for drug and food control.

Kuwait will receive the first batch of 200,000 doses within days, he said.