Expats from Philippines, 9 other countries returning to Kuwait to face new protocol amid COVID-19 spread

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2020   •   783

MANILA, Philippines – Expatriates returning to Kuwait after visiting the Philippines and nine other countries will soon be required to undergo a medical examination and present proof that they are free from novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a state authority announced.

In an advisory posted on Wednesday, the Director General of Civil Aviation announced the new travel protocol which covers all expatriates coming from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Lebanon.

The new travel protocol, which will take effect on March 8, requires expatriates to undergo medical examination and present certificates that confirms they are not infected with the virus before entering the Gulf state.

These certificates must be issued by health centers approved by the Embassy of State of Kuwait.  

“If there is no Kuwaiti embassy in these countries, they must be certified by the health authorities operating in the said countries,” the official added.

Expatriates who will fail to comply with the new protocol will be denied entry to Kuwait and deported to their country of origin “without the State bearing any financial costs” through the same carrier.

The airline company will also be fined for violating the order.

Kuwaiti citizens, meanwhile, are excluded from the procedure because they will be examined at the Kuwait International Airport.

The Kuwaiti government already suspended flights to and from Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Italy and Iraq due to the rising number of COVID-19 infections worldwide.

An entry ban has also been enforced for those who travelled from South Korea, Iraq, Thailand and Italy in the past two weeks.

Kuwait has reported 56 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 4.

Filipino on Kuwait death row gets Amiri pardon, flies home to PH

Marje Pelayo   •   September 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The government of Kuwait has granted clemency to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Bienvenido Espino after serving 13 years in jail on death row for the murder of his Filipina partner in 2008.

According to Philippine Embassy in Kuwait Charge D’affaires and Consul General Pendosina Lomondot, Espino was pardoned by the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during the recently concluded Eid season, along with other Filipino detainees at Sulaibiya Central Jail.

“On behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, my deepest and most profound gratitude goes to His Highness The Amir for granting clemency to OFW Bienvenido Espino, and for giving our kababayan a chance to start a new life in the Philippines,” Chargé d’Affaires Lomondot said.

In May 2008, the Kuwaiti Court of First Instance found Espino guilty of murdering his Filipina partner in October 2007, and sentenced him to death by hanging. 

The said decision was upheld by the Kuwaiti Court of Appeals in January 2009, and by the Kuwait Court of Cassation in November 2009.

However, Espino received a tanazul or letter of forgiveness from the family of his late Filipina partner after settling the blood money for the crime. 

The issuance of a tanazul led to the commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment in 2013. 

Lomondot said Espino’s case had been under negotiation since the administrations of Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno S. Aquino III.  

The embassy official sent off Espino at the Kuwait International Airport on August 30 along with other Filipinos who availed the repatriation flight arranged by the Philippine government for OFWs who wish to return home due to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro tested again for novel coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.

Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”

CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.

The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

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