COVID-19: Expats in transit lose hope of returning to Kuwait as travel ban continues
Kuwait City: As the travel ban on non-Kuwaitis entering Kuwait continues, many expats stuck in neighbouring countries are beginning to lose hope of returning to Kuwait and are travelling back to their home countries.
The Kuwaiti government announced that on February 7 all non-Kuwaitis have been barred from entering the country for two weeks. Two hours before Kuwait’s Airport was supposed to start welcoming non-Kuwaiti passengers after a two-week ban, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) announced, in a tweet, on Saturday night that non-Kuwaitis are barred from entering the country until further notice.
According to Kuwait Times, there are around hundreds of expats, mainly from India, Philippines and Egypt, that are stuck in Dubai due to the travel ban.
On February 8, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi advised its citizens not to travel to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia via the UAE as the two Gulf countries implemented new strict travel measures. In addition, the embassy advised travellers stranded in the UAE to return home.
Since the airport reopened in Kuwait last August, non-Kuwaitis travelling from 35 countries were required to quarantine in a non-banned country for 14 days prior to travelling to Kuwait. The decision forced many expats to travel to neighbouring countries in the Gulf as a transit stop.
With no signs that the travel ban will be lifted, many expats have decided to travel back home to their countries as financial constraints restrict their ability to stay on in the Gulf countries.
Cost of transit
As many expats travel to neighbouring countries to quarantine prior to travelling to Kuwait, they are required to pay air fare as well accommodation for 14 days.
The average price for flights from Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi from Kuwait range between 185 Kuwaiti dinars to 680 Kuwaiti dinars, a steep increase compared to pre-COVID-19 prices which ranged between 24 Kuwaiti dinars to 41 Kuwaiti dinars, according to airline websites.
As for quarantine charges, including PCR test and airport transfer, the average package price for 14-days quarantine in Dubai for two passengers is around 140 Kuwaiti dinars. Many stuck in Dubai after February, when the travel ban went into effect, are required to pay more as they extend their stay in hotels or accommodations.
Help from local charities
In an effort to relieve the financial burden, some charities in Dubai have offered services to those stuck in the Emirate and those who are unable to return to Kuwait. Some community groups in the UAE have been providing free meals and accommodations to Indians stranded in the UAE. Between January and February, around 600 Indians received help from several volunteer groups in the Emirates.
Domestic workers exempt from travel ban
Domestic workers, those under Article 20 visa, are exempt from the travel ban and are able to travel to Kuwait as long as they are registered in the BelSalamah app.
Chartered flights have been arranged between Kuwaiti airlines and national airlines like Air India and Sri Lankan airlines to carry domestic workers back to Kuwait.
Upon their arrival, they are required to quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense, for 14-days.