The Central Bank of Kuwait yesterday decided to cut the discount rate from 2.75 percent to 2.50 percent to soften the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
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No new COVID-19 cases were reported in Kuwait yesterday for the second day in a row, but the health ministry said the health condition of two infected Kuwaiti women deteriorated and one of them is in critical condition.
CBK Governor Mohammad Al-Hashel said in a statement the Central Bank board took the decision in light of uncertainties on the prospects of global economic growth and repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak, namely its impact on international trade.
It also came against the backdrop of a fall in collective demand and gross product after the US Federal Reserve decision to cut the interest rate on the US dollar by 0.50 percent in a bid to cope with mounting hazards emanating from the coronavirus epidemic.
Slashing the discount rate (at the national level) is part of precautionary measures in anticipation of coronavirus-related fallouts, Hashel said.
Moreover, the move is designed to preserve monetary and financial stability, along with maintaining “attractiveness and competitiveness” of the Kuwaiti dinar, as well as for sake of backing up economic activities and macroeconomic performance, he added.
MP Safa Al-Hashem called on authorities to stop expatriates in infected countries from returning to the country without medical tests in advance in their home country.
She said that the decision requiring expats from 10 countries to undergo tests for the coronavirus before returning to the country should have been applied immediately and not from March 8.
“This is a national security issue and should not be subjected to political courtesies,” Hashem told reporters. She also cast doubt on the credibility of medical centers authorized by Kuwaiti missions, saying the medical certificates must be attested by the embassies.
The health ministry said the measure is temporary and the countries were selected on the basis of recommendations by the World Health Organization.
The ministry also said that the health condition of two Kuwaiti women, in their 70s, deteriorated and they were admitted to the intensive care unit. The condition of one of them is stable but remains in the ICU, while the condition of the other woman is critical. The two suffer from acute pneumonia.
The ministry also said two cases have been allowed to leave the quarantine after spending 14 days and after their tests were negative. That leaves only 54 coronavirus cases in quarantine.
Meanwhile, the premises of the oil ministry and Kuwait Petroleum Corp was evacuated yesterday after a female employee returned to office after three days of sick leave and was in bad condition.
The employee was taken to hospital and the ministry building was sterilized. Oil Minister Khaled Al-Fadhel later confirmed tests concluded the woman, who suffered from high temperature, only had regular seasonal flu.
The employee was given a two-day rest, said Fadhel, reiterating the ministry of oil and KPC applied preventive health measures to ensure the safety of all employees at the seaside Shuwaikh complex.
Fadhel, also acting minister of electricity and water, said in a statement to KUNA the employee was taken to the clinic in the oil complex and then sent to Jaber Hospital for further tests.
Management of the oil complex, he said, evacuated the ninth floor of the oil ministry building and applied all health measures for the safety of all employees. The ministry of health meanwhile will start from Sunday distributing thermal screening devices to schools.
Saudi Arabia yesterday suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage over fears of the new coronavirus spreading to Islam’s holiest cities, an unprecedented move that raises fresh uncertainty over the annual hajj.
The kingdom said the suspension was provisional, but with the umrah attracting millions of people annually, the decision has a huge potential impact. The Gulf state has decided “to suspend umrah temporarily for citizens and residents in the kingdom”, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
They were also barred from “visits to the Prophet’s (PBUH) mosque in Madinah”, according to a foreign ministry tweet.
Iraq said a 70-year-old Muslim cleric died yesterday from the novel coronavirus, the first death from the outbreak in a country where 31 people have been infected.
The Iraqi preacher had been quarantined in the northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah before his death, a spokesman for the Kurdish autonomous region’s health authority said. According to local sources, he had recently met with Iraqis returning from neighboring Iran.
Responding to yesterday’s death, Sulaimaniyah Governor Haval Abu Bakr told reporters that all rallies in the province will be banned and that all football matches will now be held behind closed doors. Local religious authorities for their part announced a ban on mass prayers, including on Fridays, until further notice.
The coronavirus has killed 92 people in Iran, officials said yesterday, as the world’s deadliest outbreak outside China spread to all but one of the country’s provinces. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile dismissed a US offer to help it fight the novel coronavirus outbreak, charging that Washington hides behind a “mask of sympathy” while sanctions are depriving the country of medicine. The Islamic republic reported 15 new deaths from COVID-19 and 586 additional cases, bringing the overall toll to 92 dead and 2,922 infected.
“This virus doesn’t have wings to fly. We’re the ones spreading it,” health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave the latest figures, told a televised news conference. “We have to cut down on unnecessary interactions. We have to be extra careful in the coming weeks,” he added, calling on the public to refrain from travelling and gathering at events such as weddings.
The provinces of Tehran and Qom were the worst-hit with 253 and 101 new cases of COVID-19 respectively, according to the spokesman. The Shiite holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, is the epicentre of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak and where its first deaths were reported on Feb 19. Authorities have since scrambled to halt its rapid spread. Schools have been shut, major cultural and sporting events suspended, and working hours reduced.
Despite the preventive measures, the novel coronavirus is now present in all but one of Iran’s 31 provinces, according to the latest figures. The provinces of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, North Khorasan and Zanjan were added to the list yesterday, leaving only Bushehr in the south unaffected. US President Donald Trump said Saturday he was ready to aid Iran with the virus outbreak. “If we can help the Iranians with this problem, we are certainly willing to do so… All they have to do is ask. We will have great professionals over there,” he said.
His counterpart in Tehran dismissed the offer, saying “our people know well that you are lying” with American sanctions still in place that block Iran’s access to medicine. “Those who have deprived the people of even medicine and food through sanctions, who have done the most vicious things… they appear with a mask of sympathy and say that we want to help the nation of Iran,” Rouhani said, in a clear reference to the United States.
Rouhani said the US must lift sanctions blocking medicine purchases to prove its honest intent to help. “This is the first step… to free banking relations for purchasing medicine, transferring medicine and shipping medicine and food,” he said. The novel coronavirus has so far infected some high-profile Iranian officials. The national emergency services chief Pirhossein Kolivand was the latest such infection announced on Tuesday.
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