Kuwait has banned commercial flights to 31 countries, including Pakistan, regarded as 'high risk' due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on Saturday. The ban will remain in place until further notice.
Apart from Pakistan, the countries include India, Egypt, the Philippines, Lebanon and Sri Lanka, which all have large numbers of expatriates in Kuwait. The list also includes China, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Iraq.
The ban was announced the same day Kuwait began a partial resumption of commercial flights. The authorities have said Kuwait International Airport would run at about 30 per cent capacity from Saturday, gradually increasing in coming months.
Kuwait, which has recorded nearly 67,000 coronavirus cases and more than 400 deaths, began a five-phase plan at the start of June to gradually lift restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus. A partial curfew remains in place.
In June, three UAE airlines including Emirates, Etihad and Fly Dubai had suspended flight operations to Pakistan after several outbound passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Emirates suspended its operations after 30 Pakistani passengers bound for Hong Kong tested positive for Covid-19, saying that the airline was "coordinating closely with the various authorities and will review and implement any required additional measures to satisfy all parties before we resume services from Pakistan".
Soon after Emirates' announcement, Fly Dubai and Etihad took the same decision and suspended operations for outbound passengers.
A few weeks after suspension of services, Emirates and Etihad Airways resumed flights from Pakistan for passengers who tested negative for Covid-19.
No 'zero risk'
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its long-awaited update to its guidance on travel, said that countries must prioritise essential travel for emergencies. Cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel, the world health body said.
“There is no ‘zero risk’ when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel,” it said in the updated guidance posted on its website on Thursday.
The WHO’s guidance can be used by governments and industries to help shape policies but is not enforceable.
The updated travel advice is little changed from previous guidance, which also included infection control advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching the face.
The WHO urged each country to conduct its own risk-benefit analysis before lifting any or all travel restrictions. Authorities should take into account local epidemiology and transmission patterns, it said, as well as national health and social distancing measures already in place.
Countries that choose to quarantine all travellers on arrival should do so after assessing the risks and consider local circumstances, the WHO said.
“Countries should continuously plan for and assess their surge capacities for testing, tracking, isolating and managing imported cases and quarantine of contacts,” it said.
The WHO said this week that international travel bans cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries will have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders.