**Update: 11/03/20 @ 21:57 UTC – Official confirmation from Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation included**
In an unprecedented reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, Kuwait’s Cabinet Ministers have announced the suspension of all commercial flights from Friday until further notice. This comes with the announcement of a two-week official holiday beginning on March 12th through to the 26th as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
Suspension of all flights
We’ve already seen Kuwait impose entry restrictions on non-citizens coming from more severely affected countries. However, this new policy raises precautions to a whole new level, leaving large numbers of Kuwaiti residents trapped outside of the country – and some stranded within.
According to Gulf News, the blanket suspension on flights begins on Friday. Sources add that the government will limit inbound trips for “Kuwaiti citizens and their first-degree relatives”. In addition to this, cargo flights are exempt from this rule.
Initial confusion from Kuwait’s civil aviation authority
While a handful of Middle Eastern news agencies have picked up on this breaking news, Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation remained silent on the matter in the first few hours. In fact, adding to the confusion was a one-day-old post on the agency’s Instagram account, stating that rumors of Kuwait’s international airport closing down are untrue.
However, since our initial reporting, the DGCA has released an Instagram post confirming the policy and its details:
View this post on Instagram
According to World Population Review, only roughly a third of Kuwait’s population are Kuwaiti nationals. The remaining two-thirds are mostly comprised of residents of South Asian origin or from other countries in the MENA (Middle East – North Africa) region. Therefore, this policy will disproportionately affect non-Kuwaiti nationals who will either be trapped outside the country and unable to return to their jobs, or visitors to the country who do not consider the country home.
There’s no doubt this new move is in response to the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country over the past week. On 7 March there were 61 cases. However, with each passing day, one to three cases are added to the count. The total number at the time of writing is 72 as three new cases were added today.
Simple Flying has contacted a number of airlines, requesting official statements. One Kuwait-based airline responded, saying an official statement will likely be released tomorrow. Emirates advises anyone affected to check their website for the latest updates.
British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines are among the European carriers with service to Kuwait. Middle Eastern giants Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar will also be largely impacted by this, along with relatively smaller airline Saudia. Of course, local airlines Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways will be hit the hardest.
As this is a breaking story, we will update this post as the situation develops.