Overseas Kuwaitis return home by evacuation flights amid COVID-19 spread

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Participants attend the fifth meeting of the Directors General of Civil Aviation in the Middle East Region in Farwaniya Governorate, Kuwait, Nov. 4, 2019. Kuwait will witness rapid growth in passenger and cargo traffic over the next ten years, bringing annual revenues of about 800 million U.S. dollars, an official of Kuwaiti aviation authorities said on Monday. At the opening ceremony of the fifth meeting of the Directors General of Civil Aviation in the Middle East Region, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, president of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of Kuwait, said that it is estimated that the number of passengers in 2037 will reach about 42 million annually in Kuwait. (Photo by Asad/Xinhua)
Participants attend the fifth meeting of the Directors General of Civil Aviation in the Middle East Region in Farwaniya Governorate, Kuwait, Nov. 4, 2019. Kuwait will witness rapid growth in passenger and cargo traffic over the next ten years, bringing annual revenues of about 800 million U.S. dollars, an official of Kuwaiti aviation authorities said on Monday. At the opening ceremony of the fifth meeting of the Directors General of Civil Aviation in the Middle East Region, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, president of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of Kuwait, said that it is estimated that the number of passengers in 2037 will reach about 42 million annually in Kuwait. (Photo by Asad/Xinhua)

At Kuwait International Airport, many Kuwaitis returning from abroad greet their families by bumping elbows or flying kisses rather than the common way of shaking hands to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.

Abu Muhammad, who was waiting for his daughter returning from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, told Xinhua that he could not express his joy to see his daughter again especially under the current circumstances.

“The situation was frightening in light of the current events. I was terrified when my daughter was stuck outside and all the airports were closed,” he said.

“Now, I am happy and sad at the same time because it is not possible to describe the feeling of seeing her and not being able to hug her and seeing her sitting with us in the same room,” he said.

Muhammad prepared a master room with a private bathroom for his daughter for a 14-day quarantine.

“The room was prepared specifically for her, as only plastic tools will be used for eating or drinking. A small washing machine was bought for her to wash clothes,” he said.

Meanwhile, arriving at the airport from abroad, Kuwaiti citizen Adel Al-Baghli expressed his happiness and pride.

“I am proud that I am a Kuwaiti in light of the current coronavirus pandemic around the world. Our government continues to work with all embassies to open airports specifically for us,” he said.

“For the sake of Kuwait, I will stay at home as it was instructed by the World Health Organization,” he said.

Regarding the organizing process at airport, Mona Al-Khamees, a Kuwaiti passenger, said it was unexpectedly great.

“When we arrived, we received a bag of masks and sanitizer. Then after we finished stamping our passports, we were enforced to wear a tracking bracelet and download an application on phone in order to track us while we are in home quarantine,” she said.

“The application aims to protect me and my family and make sure we do not break the rules of the mandatory home quarantine,” she said, explaining that if they went outside, the application would send a notification to the medical team.

Besides the airport work staff, there are many volunteers, citizens, and expatriates working in the front lines to serve the passengers and to organize their arrival.

Mohammed Alawneh, a Jordanian volunteer, told Xinhua that he joined a voluntary group to serve the Kuwaiti returnees and to guide them through the process suggested by the Health Ministry.

“Kuwait is considered as my second home and I am glad to be able to serve it,” he said.

On Sunday, Kuwait launched the first phase of the evacuation plan to bring home its citizens from 16 destinations over a period of three days.

According to Saad Al-Otaibi, spokesman of Kuwait Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA), 3,970 Kuwaiti passengers, stranded abroad in coronavirus-hit countries, will arrive on Monday via 25 flights.

By Tuesday, 12,000 citizens will return to Kuwait, he said, noting that this is the first phase out of five to evacuate Kuwaiti citizens from overseas.

According to Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, DGCA president, the second phase of the plan will be launched next Thursday which involves Kuwaitis from 23 destinations.

On April 4, the Kuwaiti government announced the plan to return the country’s citizens from abroad, from April 19 to May 7.

There are about 50,000 Kuwaiti citizens abroad across the world. Enditem

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