CORONAVIRUS DIARIES: Week #19 – The Changeover to Third Phase While Safeguarding The Community’s Welfare

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES: Week #19 – The Changeover  to Third Phase While Safeguarding The Community’s Welfare

July 27, 2020

“Obedience is an act of faith. Disobedience is the result of unbelief.”

Edwin Louis Cole

 In the current period, we have seen the gradual restoration of different countries around the globe. It is because most of their economy has already tipped down due to the effects of the coronavirus disease. Its respective government would not allow its economy to fall. Therefore, gradual restoration is crucial to regain the livelihood of every worker and citizen. The State of Kuwait is currently ending its implemented second phase. It is now on the halfway of its path to normalcy. With this, precautions and reminders of adherence to the measures remain to ensure its success. 

In Kuwait, the Ministry of Health reported 606 COVID-19 cases with five additional deaths and 684 recovered cases. It brings to a total of 64,379 cases with 438 fatalities and 55,057 recoveries. Within the new cases, there are 358 cases of Kuwait citizens, and 248 are residents of various nationalities. In the governorates, there are 170 in Ahmadi, 152 in Farwaniya, 152 in Jahra, 70 in Hawally, and 62 in the Capital. There are currently 8,884 active cases with 121 of it under the intensive care unit.

Update of COVID-19 Cases in Kuwait on July 27, 2020

Looking at the charted timeline of cases from July 21, 2020 to July 27, 2020, we have seen a period of increased cases. The blue line presents the number of daily reported cases.  However, the blue line decreased by July 26, 2020. For the recoveries, it increased over time. This is a good sign of all the fruitful efforts of our frontliners.

Timeline of Cases from July 21, 2020 to July 27, 2020

A chart published on July 24, 2020 shows the active COVID-19 cases within the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains at the top with 44,369 cases followed by Oman with 20,425 cases. Kuwait ranks fifth with 9,285 cases on that day. 

Active COVID-19 cases in GCC

Virtual Seminars in Arab Museums

 Despite the ongoing coronavirus health crisis, Kuwait’s National Council for Culture, Art, and Letters (NCCAL) continues its online activities. The NCCAL’s Department of Antiquities and Museums organized a virtual seminary regarding “Arab Museums for Development and Culture.” Scheduled on July 23 – 25, 2020, specialists from Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, and Tunisia countries will talk about the museums’ educational strategies. The seminar is crucial because it contributed a lot to science development and interaction within the community, according to NCCAL Secretary General Kamel Al-Abduljalil.

Final Schedule for the Eid Al-Adha Holiday

As days passed by, the Eid Al-Adha is getting near. The Kuwaiti Civil Service Commission (CSC) affirmed on July 21, 2020, that it would happen for five days. It is scheduled that the Eid Break will start on July 30, 2020 and end on August 03, 2020 with the resumption of work on August 04, 2020. Therefore, it is decided that July 30, 2020 is the first day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday for all state agencies.

Implemented Safety Measures for Resumption of Commercial Flights

 Since the COVID-19 cases started to rise, commercial air travel is immediately suspended. As the implemented second phase ends, Kuwait’s civil aviation authority presented its established rules for air travel resumption in the country. Commercial flights are scheduled to resume in the next months while reassuring the wary passengers of their safety during their trip. 

Their preventative protocols include random COVID-19 testing on both arriving and departing passengers in the Kuwait International Airport. According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Deputy Director-General Saleh Al-Fadaghi said that all travelers must wear their face masks with a hand sanitizer within their reach. Social distancing with other passengers is strictly imposed. 

 Under the new protocols, the authorities require the departing passengers to present their negative COVID-19 test result before they are allowed to board their specific flight. As they board in, the concerned personnel will instruct them to keep hand luggage to a minimum. Manual checking of tickets was significantly reduced as the COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for digital and e-tickets that only requires scanning with no physical contact. 

 Moreover, passengers must present themselves at the airport four hours before departure. It will ensure a comfortable and smooth journey as long as these protocols are followed. Officially, the commercial flights will resume on August 01, 2020, after being suspended for four months. It is a part of the implemented third phase in Kuwait’s five-phase plan to restoration. Including in it is its operation with no more than 30 percent capacity. 

As part of the government’s preparations to reopen the Kuwait International Airport, the Ministry of Health conducted COVID-19 diagnostic tests to all Kuwait Airways employees on July 24, 2020. Testing its employees will ensure the passengers their safety during their travel.

COVID-19 Tests for Kuwait Airways Employees

 I commend the Kuwait authorities’ efforts in bringing back the commercial flights at the Kuwait International Airport. Despite the coronavirus disease’s ongoing threat, they remain brave in giving service to the incoming and departing passengers of the country. At this time, we can see the courage of the employees and the careful planning of their leaders. 

COVID-19 Pandemic as an Opportunity in the Arab Region

 The coronavirus pandemic has infected many countries around the globe, including the ones in the Arab region. The United Nations (UN) believes that the ongoing health crisis gave an opportunity to the Arab region in building and addressing its structural weaknesses. According to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on July 23, 2020, today is the perfect time to prioritize the lives of the COVID-19 victims through improving their healthcare settings.

 Precautionary measures need to be implemented immediately to reduce the transmission of the disease, end the current conflict, and assist the most vulnerable part of the community. The UN Chief affirmed that tensions and inequalities are present within the region, which can significantly affect political and social stability. 

 Due to the catastrophic results that the COVID-19 pandemic brought, he said that the regional economy would contract by more than five percent. It already includes other factors, such as the dropping of oil prices, remittances, and tourism avenues. 

 However, a large number of youngsters within the Arab world is its most valuable asset. With a positive tone, the UN Chief believes that these youngsters can help ensure a vibrant civil society with human rights as its priority. Lastly, he quoted, “Together, we can turn crisis into an opportunity. It will be good for the region and good for our world.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

We can agree to the Guterres statement of the children as a valuable asset in the country. It is because they are the ones who will soon replace our current good leaders. It is in their hands how they will shape the nation. Therefore, as a parent and as an adult, we should educate them well, especially in handling crises such as the coronavirus pandemic. 

Offering Free COVID-19 Tests for All

 Identifying COVID-19 patients is one of the primary ways to prevent further spread by isolating infected people as they receive medical treatment. On July 23, 2020, the Ministry of Health announced free coronavirus diagnostic tests from all government-run hospitals. Under the specific health guidelines, it is implemented to support the country’s efforts in reducing coronavirus transmission. 

 According to the Ministry, the State of Kuwait increased its efforts for coronavirus testing and contact tracing for accurate assessment of the virus’s daily transmission rate. It led to large-scale research on all demographic variables that affect its rapid spread. Officially, the authorities accredited all medical facilities that ran PCR tests under the imposed criteria and guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

 In the private hospitals, price rigging will be prevented for the Health Ministry will keep a watchful eye. It will ensure that private facilities will offer these tests the standard rate nationwide, which is available at an affordable cost compared to other countries. In conclusion, the Ministry is prepared to take decisive action to the establishments who plan to cash in at such times of certainty. These include increasing the standard prices or implementing nefarious doings. 

Beginning of the Third Phase on July 28, 2020

 The Kuwait Cabinet has given the green light for its transition to the third phase of its five-phase plan to restoration. On Tuesday of July 28, 2020, the Kuwait government will impose the third phase, which shortens the curfew hours from 9:00 pm until 3:00 am. It will also include removing the lockdown protocols in Farwaniya on Sunday of July 26, 2020.

 However, the Cabinet tasked a committee to monitor the community’s compliance with the eased COVID-19 health measures in the country. Our fellow Muslim brothers are permitted to attend Eid Al-Adha prayers at the mosques across the nation. The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs approve it with the application of safety and health standards. 

It decided to remain the shutdown of the slaughterhouses on the first day of the Eid Al-Adha, which will begin on July 31, 2020.   To conduct the sacrifice ritual of the livestock, schedule appointments are provided. It has been four weeks since the implementation of the second phase on June 30, 2020.

The established criteria needed for the transition include the stability of case numbers, the scale of infections, occupancy numbers in the intensive care unit and hospital bed, and the lowering of positive cases identified daily. Each implemented phase has a span of three weeks in which the Kuwait Cabinet decides the time of transition to the third phase.

The Meeting of the Kuwait Cabinet on Implementation of the Third Phase

The Kuwait Cabinet conducted its meeting led by His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah through video conference. According to His Highness, the Prime Minister, His Highness, arrived safely in the Rochester Airport of the United States to complete his medical treatment. The Cabinet wished the good health and rapid recovery of His Highness the Amir as he makes his return to Kuwait.

During the meeting, the Minister of Health Sheikh Dr. Basil Humoud Al-Sabah discussed the latest developments in the country’s health situation. It includes updates in the medical treatment, logistic services, and preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. With the recommendations given to the Cabinet, it announced its agreed decisions.

 The Kuwait Cabinet entrusted to all the respective ministers in their field of experience to impose the country’s third phase plan on Tuesday of July 28, 2020.  It tasked the main committee to follow up on the implemented health requirements and the overall compliance of various activities and sectors. 

 The Health Minister affirmed his decision to the Cabinet in maintaining curfew to all the regions of Kuwait. It includes restricting the road traffic starting from 9:00 pm until 3:00 pm. The isolation protocols enforced in Farwaniya is lifted at 5:00 pm on July 26, 2020. Nevertheless, the council will keep the preparations and equipment intended for isolation during the period until notice is provided. It also assigned the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior to begin implementing the Health Ministry’s decision.

Ending of Isolation in Farwaniya

The Kuwait government approves conducting the Eid Al-Adha prayers in all state mosques specified by the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs. However, the health guidelines and requirements imposed by the Health Ministry must be followed. The sheep market will be closed during the first day of Eid Al-Adha, but the appointment reservation system is allowed.

Transition to Third Phase Not An End to COVID-19 Threat

 Even with the Cabinet’s confirmation on the country’s transition to the third phase, Kuwait’s Health Minister affirmed a warning to the public. According to him, reducing the curfew hours into six hours does not indicate the end of the COVID-19 threat. It is because the official vaccine for the disease is still not approved. 

As he spoke at the press conference, Minister Sheikh Dr. Basel Al-Sabah emphasized the significance of the public’s adherence to the health and safety measures. It is a crucial part of preventing infection, while all the five phases are implemented until a cure is approved. The main reason for the country’s transition to other stages is for the citizens and residents to adapt as the situation returns to normalcy gradually. However, health measures will not be stopped. 

 These health measures include covering the nose and mouth through a face mask, staying at home where one only leaves due to necessities, social distancing in public places, and regular sterilization and washing of hands. He urged the community to prioritize the safety of patients with chronic disease, elderly people, and pregnant women. 

Initially, the plan includes lifting the partial curfew at the beginning of the third phase. However, the Ministers realized the need to reduce its period to preserves the public’s health. The non-compliance of the Kuwaiti nationals causes increasing COVID-19 cases among them. Based on the records, the daily numbers of Kuwaiti citizens could sometimes reach up to 70 percent of the overall cases.

 The authorities noticed that most of these cases are the elderly members of the community.  Despite the fact that most of them only stay within their homes, they contracted the disease due to one of their family members not following the imposed health measures. 

 During the third phase, the public sector will increase its operations to not more than 50 percent of its total workforce. Together, it allows the visits of social care homes, reopening of resorts, apartments and hotels, and the resumption of taxi services. Within the taxi, one passenger is only allowed. 

 According to the Health Minister, the COVID-19 pandemic remains the primary threat to humankind until the current date. He cited the World Health Organization in recommending the importance of complying with health recommendations and measures. He added that the criteria for the country’s success or failure in fighting the coronavirus disease are the overall compliance of the entire nation with the medical requirements and the imposed health procedures. Based on WHO’s reports, the negligence of some countries’ community affected the safety of its individuals and their health system negatively. 

 When asked about the government’s plans for a new vaccine, the Health Minister answered that they addressed the companies who reached advanced stages in their medical trials. Once the vaccines are released, the Health Ministry will acquire it through the World Health Organization for its batch. The second batch will be obtained directly from its production companies. 

 For the incoming travelers in Kuwait, a 14-day home quarantine is imposed to ensure that the individual did not contract the disease. He said this after the Kuwait government prepares the resumption of commercial flights in August. The authorities will require the passengers to wear an e-bracelet and fill out their information through a government application.

                Accredited laboratories and health centers will conduct PCR tests for visitors to prove that they are not infected. In the Kuwait International Airport, it is expected to conduct random swab tests to 500 incoming passengers ensuring the correctness of their medical certifications. 

Launching of Official Application for Air Travel Resumption

 To serve better the flight passengers in the reoperations of the airport, the Kuwait Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) launched an official application for the travelers to and from the country. The approved guidelines by the Ministry of Health, DGCA, and the Ministry of Interior are stated in the application. Hence, it made Kuwait the leader in implementing this technology on a single platform among the region’s airports. 

 It aims to assist the passengers in meeting the travel requirements and ensuring that new procedures are strictly implemented. It includes reducing the waiting periods and avoiding congestion within the airport. The applications seek to achieve three main goals. The first two are to protect the passenger’s health and airport employees while the third is to raise awareness of the newly implemented procedures.  

 To use the platform, the authorities require all passengers to register for the application. It is available in both Arabic and English through the link kuwaitmosafer.com. After that, they can enter the required data of their flight details, allowing them to book appointments for their PCR test in any healthcare facilities. 

Weekly Session of Kuwait Cabinet on July 27, 2020

On July 27, 2020, the Kuwait Cabinet conducted their weekly session via virtual conference chaired by His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who assured the stability of His Highness the Amir’s health. He prayed to His Almighty to bestow good health and welfare to His highness the Amir, who is currently under medical treatment in the United States of America. 

 In the meeting, the Minister of Health Sheikh Dr. Basel Humoud Al-Sabah updated the ministers regarding the nation’s health situation. In return, the ministers deeply admired the Health Ministry’s significant efforts and other competent authorities in handling the pandemic and stemming its transmission. The nation’s citizens and residents are urged to continue their cooperation in the transition to the third phase. The compliance of everyone is a necessity to achieve the best possible results. 

In the celebration of the Eid Al-Adha, they discussed the issue of livestock slaughtering, Eid ritual, and the usage of the digital platform called “Mata.” It is for the regulation and organization of the physical presence of the community within the slaughterhouses. The authorities try to prevent close mingling of the citizens and residents to each other.

As preparations for the resumption of air travel are placed, the Chief of an Ad Hoc Committee Saad Al-Otaibi said that a bilingual guidebook is published. It can be viewed through social media platforms designed to assist the travelers of all the implemented safety measures and give a solid understanding of the health protocols in their journey. 

 More countries are requiring negative COVID-19 test results for its incoming passengers. Therefore, he advised the travelers to register their flight details through the link www.kuwaitmosafer.com for their appointment in their COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

 A smartphone application is also provided to simplify the travel procedures for the travelers as they comply with the precautionary health measures such as wearing face masks and observing social distancing. The adherence to all the preventive measures will indicate the successful reoperation of the Kuwait International Airport on August 01, 2020.

The Committee for the Reoperation of Kuwait International Airport

Today marks the 28th and the last day of the implemented second phase. Tomorrow, the third phase will begin. The criteria have been met since the transition of the stage has been agreed upon by the Kuwait government. I continue to pray to our Almighty God that He may bestow us with guidance and graces as Kuwait’s inspiring leaders handled the situation, and as our frontliners fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It only through unity and discipline that we can overcome the threat of our lives. The threat that suspended and affected many lives causing damages not only in the country’s economy but also to our livelihood. I hope that we can work as one in restoring back our normal days.

Announcements of Philippine Embassy in Kuwait

 On July 22, 2020, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait released the list of individuals who have an appointment to the Embassy from July 24, 2020 until July 30, 2020 for the application and renewal of passport. For those listed in their online survey published on June 22-24, 2020, each of them will be given their appointment. For those individuals who are not registered, the Embassy advised them to follow up on the following posts on their official page. To access the list, click here.

List of Applicants with Appointment on July 24 – July 30, 2020

As an observance of the Eid Al-Adha celebration, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait announced to the public that they are officially closed on August 2-3, 2020. Initially, the Embassy plans also to be closed on August 20, 2020, for the Islamic New Year and on August 31, 2020, for the National Heroes Day. However, they did not continue with the plan to accept the appointments of our fellow Kababayans.

Announcement of Philippine Embassy in Kuwait

The Philippine Embassy affirmed the successful repatriation of another set of more than 300 Filipinos back to the Philippines. Chartered through the Kuwait Airways flight, it is with great relief that our kababayans can finally get home. The chartered plane was cleared after a request has been submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines (DFA), and endorsed to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Repatriation of more than 300 Filipinos on July 25, 2020

 On July 24, 2020, the Philippine Embassy repatriated about 15 Filipino mothers and their infant children through a chartered Kuwait Airways flight. Before bringing our Kababayans in the airport, they were sheltered in the Talha Deportation Center while waiting for an available flight.

Repatriation of more than 300 Filipinos on July 25, 2020

 In regards to the appointment slot, the Philippine Embassy issued a warning not to take the appointment slots of our fellow kababayans if they intend to avail of an appointment for passport renewal in http://kuwaitpe.setmore.com.

Therefore, the Embassy affirmed that they would not accept applicants who take appointments from the Setmore link for passport renewal. Furthermore, there are also appointment slots for consular services of the Embassy, such as authentication and notarial, and civil registration. Lastly, the registration to avail passport appointments at http://bit.ly/KuwaitPEAppointment remains closed. 

Infographics of Philippine Embassy in Kuwait

 I am very thankful for all the efforts that the Philippine Embassy and the other Philippine public and private organizations have done for our kababayans in Kuwait. It is not easy to face the pandemic, especially if you have no one to depend on. However, because these sectors exist, we have someone that we can call for help. More Filipino workers were filled with joy as they are repatriated back into the Philippines. The repatriation brings more smiles to our Filipinos, knowing that we are coming back to our homeland. 

Ang Panginoon ay mabuti; matibay siyang kanlungan sa oras ng kagipitan, at inaalagaan niya ang nananalig sa kanya.

NAHUM 1:7 (ASND)

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