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CORONAVIRUS:KUWAIT OFW QUARANTINE DAY #40- Ensuring the Repatriation of Kuwaiti Citizens

April 20, 2020, Monday

“I think that we should be less focused on the crisis and more focused on what we can learn from the crisis. For the biggest crisis of all is the crisis of repeating the crisis.” 

-Craig D. Lounsbrough

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout various parts of the globe, travel restrictions have been implemented by every government agency in the world. This poses a dilemma for many tourists and travelers around most notably to the Kuwaiti nationals who are currently residing within out of reach areas.

In Kuwait, the Ministry of Health announced 80 new COVID-19 cases with 62 additional recoveries, and two other coronavirus deaths being recorded. This brings to a total tally of 1995 cases with 367 recovered cases and nine deaths. Within the new instances, seventy-two of them had contact with confirmed cases with 1 being Kuwaiti nationals, 47 cases of Indian residents, 3 cases of Bangladeshi residents, five instances of Egyptian residents, 3 Nepali residents, three instances of Pakistani residents, 3 Palestinian residents, 2 Filipino residents, 1 N.K resident, 1 Spanish resident, 1 Syrian resident, one Moroccan resident and one case of a Portuguese resident. Other cases include 6 Kuwaiti nationals, 1 Egyptian resident, and 1 Syrian resident.

 One thousand, six hundred and nineteen patients are currently receiving medical treatment, while 39 are in the intensive care unit with 26 cases being critical; another 13 are stable in the last 24 hours and seven more were transferred to the ICU. Compared to yesterday’s report, the new number of cases decreased. 

“Update of COVID-19 cases in Kuwait on April 20, 2020.”

Contracting Airlines in Repatriation Programs

Today marks the 40th day of quarantine and the 30th day of curfew, and as such, the Ministry of Health released a statement that the 146 Kuwaiti citizens who were part of the government’s repatriation program have since then been transferred to the mandatory quarantine while the remaining 2,933 were sent home to home quarantine. According to the Ministry of Health’s Assistant Undersecretary for Technical Affairs Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi, six individuals have also been referred to the Jaber Al-Ahad Hospital because of medical workers. The latter were responsible for testing the arriving returnees suspected that they displayed Covid-19 symptoms.  An additional four cases have already been transferred to various hospitals to continue the treatment, which they were already undergoing abroad.  This initiative is part of the government’s first phase in its repatriation program, which, as of yesterday, has already helped in the repatriation of 3,089 Kuwaiti citizens among 27 flights.

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the globe, the Government of Kuwait has announced its plans to contract a global airline to help with its citizens’ repatriation efforts. The said airline has since then committed themselves to the responsibility of bringing home the stranded Kuwaiti national in certain unreachable areas by Kuwait’s domestic airlines, Kuwait Airways, and Jazeera Airways. The Cabinet is the sole body responsible for selecting the operator, Kuwait Airport’s Deputy Director at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Saleh Al-Fadagghi.

Repatriation Program by the Kuwaiti Government

This initiative is currently being presided over by the Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Nasser Al-Sabah and is being executed by a ministerial committee led by the Ambassador Dhari Al-Ajran. As of this Monday, four flights are being expected to arrive, which in retrospect, represents the second day of this huge endeavor. This comes after another 15 flights arrived earlier, and another 27 arrived the day before bringing the total to 46 flights so far. These recent flights are a part of the government’s first phase, which includes trips from neighboring Gulf Arab countries and some Arab global destinations. This will then be followed by a “rest day” which is ahead of the commencement phase two on Thursday, which will subsequently focus on the remaining Arab countries and the rest of the world. A special program will also allow a period that allocates three-day repatriation for those individuals with particular medical needs.

Earlier, Directorate General of Civil Aviation head Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah released a statement, which announced the global cities which will fall under the jurisdiction of the second phase of the repatriation program. These include Amman, Beirut, Cairo Alexandria, Tunis, Casablanca, Nouakchott, Istanbul, Malta, Dakar, Tbilisi, Baku London, Brussels, Vienna, Paris, Sarajevo, Manila, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Mumbai, New Delhi, and New York.

Upon entering the plane at their respective locations, the returnees are required to undergo administrative virus checks during the flight. They are also required to undergo the stringent medical checkups and comply with stringent health guidelines upon receiving their baggage and upon departing the airport to their mandatory home or institutional quarantine.

Extension of the Partial Curfew

As of this Monday, the Government of Kuwait has decided to extend the partial curfew for at least 16 hours and the national holiday up until May 28. In a news conference, the government spokesperson Tareq Al- Mezrem announced that all government and private institutions are to extend their holiday until May 28 and would resume on Sunday, May 31. This is in light of the government’s efforts in preventing the spread of the coronavirus by implementing a partial curfew, which is now extended starting the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

The new duration of the curfew will now start at 4:00 pm until 8:00 am the next day. I encourage everyone to abide by the quarantine protocols set by the Ministry of Interior. They will be releasing the names of the individuals who have violated the home quarantine through all news outlets and social media platforms. Let us all offer our cooperation and demonstrate our solidarity so that we can ensure the health and well being of our families and loved ones, especially during these trying times.

Updates from the Philippine Embassy

In the Philippines, the Department of Health announced 172 new COVID-19 cases with twelve additional deaths and fifty-six recoveries. It brings to a total tally of 6,259 cases with 409 fatalities and 572 recovered incidents. Compared to yesterday’s report, the new number of cases decreased.

Update of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines on April 20, 2020

The Philippine Embassy also wishes to extend its gratitude to the Grand Hyper Supermarket Kuwait for its food donations to the relief drive for OFW’s who are currently displaced and laid off due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Kuwait.

Food Donations from the Grand Hyper Supermarket Kuwait

Regarding the POLO applications for the $200 financial assistance currently being given by the Philippine Government, the officials of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Kuwait have released a statement that they are not selling the application forms. This comes in light of the legal action that is currently being taken against those individuals who have been selling the DOLE-AKAP application forms through Facebook.

During these times of crisis, I encourage everyone to avoid partaking in any illegal actions that may hamper the efforts of the authorities in helping our OFW’s in Kuwait recover. Let us not take advantage of those who are in need but instead offer them empathy and compassion, for even though we are all struggling through these hard times, we are alike by the manner in which we all seek to provide and care for ourselves, our families and our loved ones.

The Situation of OFWs in Kuwait

This Monday, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Kuwait have spearheaded an initiative to provide food relief packages for our disenfranchised Filipino brothers and sisters in Kuwait. They have recently lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. There are 240,000 Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait, and 65 percent are employed as Household Service Workers while the remaining 35 percent are skilled or semi-skilled workers. In a statement released by the POLO-OWWA, approximately 60,000 OFW’s were either terminated or are currently on a “No Work, No Pay” contract that has prompted them to provide aid and relief drives with the support of the Philippine Embassy and Filipino organizations.

Along with various Filipino organizations in the area, the organization has been delivering food packs for approximately two weeks. I am thankful to the Philippine Embassy because our fellow Filipinos are especially in need due to the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, which has resulted in them losing their jobs and having nothing to eat due to unpaid salaries. Area coordinators have already been assigned to facilitate in the enlistment and distribution of the food packages. To avail of the aid, all you have to do is text your full name based on one’s passport, address, and mobile number to the hotline number of the assigned coordinator in the area. Due to the number of requests that the Embassy is receiving, it will take some time to deliver the food packages, and thus I am hoping for the understanding of those who wish to receive the food packages. However, rest assured that help will be extended to everyone.

Aside from the food assistance by the OWWA, the POLO is also processing the application for cash assistance of OFW’s by the Department of Labor and Employment. In a statement by the Labor Attache Cathrine Duladul, the department has received over 10,000 applications for the $200 cash assistance and has processed at least 2,000 of them. As of April 17, some 2,107 Filipinos have already been returned home to the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Philippine Charge d’Affaires Charleson Hermosura has announced a final call to all undocumented OFW’s in Kuwait who failed to make it to the schedule last April 1-5, 2020, to avail of the amnesty which is until the end of this month.

I am very thankful to the Philippine Embassy and also to the Government of Kuwait for the humanitarian assistance that they have provided our displaced Filipino brothers and sisters during this pandemic. As we continue to deepen our bonds of friendship and cooperation during this crisis, I encourage our fellow undocumented OFW’s who still have absconding cases or expired residency permits to continue availing of the amnesty program offered by Kuwait. This allows them to come back home without paying any fines, free tickets will be provided, and they will also be allowed to return to Kuwait.

At sinabi niya sa kanila, Bakit kayo’y nangatatakot, Oh kayong kakaunti ang pananampalataya? Nang magkagayo’y nagbangon siya, at sinaway ang mga hangin at ang dagat; at humusay na totoo ang panahon. At ang mga tao ay nangagtaka, na sinasabi, Anong tao ito, na maging ang mga hangin at ang mga dagat ay nagsisitalima sa kaniya? 

Mateo 8:26, 27



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