An American couple is stuck in Kuwait under 24-hour curfew and isn't allowed to grocery shop. The US embassy hasn't been helpful.

a man and woman posing for a picture: Klement and Linda Camaj Klement and Linda Camaj

When Kuwait announced earlier this month that it was implementing a 24-hour lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, residents flocked to grocery stores by the thousands.

People stood in lines — some blocks long — in heat that exceeded 90 degrees, according to Klement and Linda Camaj, two Americans in Kuwait for work.

a group of people walking on a city street: People waited in lines for hours to get groceries ahead of Kuwait's total lockdown. Linda Camaj

© Linda Camaj
People waited in lines for hours to get groceries ahead of Kuwait’s total lockdown. Linda Camaj

Because the announcement fell during Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset, some people waiting in the heat fainted, Linda Camaj told Business Insider.

“It was by far the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Linda, who said she waited in line on May 9 for six hours with her husband.

“I honestly thought the line was for something else,” Klement said in the phone interview. “We saw a handful of people pass out, completely passed out … You have to take into consideration that they are fasting and they can’t drink water. They can’t eat.” 

The Camajs, who both work at the Berlin-based think tank A Path for Europe, traveled to Kuwait City for business in early March. While news of the coronavirus had already been spreading, the couple thought that Kuwait may be spared from the kind of outbreaks other countries were experiencing.

As the situation got worse and the 24-hour curfew was announced the second week of May, the couple tried to stock up on groceries.

Despite waiting in lines for hours for two days before the lockdown went into effect, the stores closed before they made it inside.

Kuwait now allows residents to go grocery shopping by appointment. But because the Camajs are on tourist visas, they can only order delivery. Realizing that delivery would be nearly impossible with such high demand, they attempted to book a flight home, but the cheapest tickets they could find were for $5,000 each, they said. 

Unable to pay that, and feeling out of options, they reached out to the US embassy in Kuwait by phone and email, hoping that they could provide the couple with documentation so they could leave the house to get food and drinking water.

The embassy representative asked them whether they had running water and internet, which they do, and then told them that they can either stick it out and wait for more delivery times to be added or pay for the flights home, according to an email viewed by Business Insider. Several phone calls went the same way, they told Business Insider. 

The couple was shocked by the government’s response. 

“Am I going to fry the WiFi router and eat it?” Klement told Business Insider. 

“We would love to be able to go back to New York, we would love to,” Linda said. “But we don’t have $10,000.” 

The couple survived on chips and marshmallows for a day before a friend stepped up to help

After arriving home from two grocery stores on May 9 and 10, sweaty and empty-handed, the couple found snacks around the home to eat.

The 20-day total lockdown is planned to last through May 30, according to Reuters. 

“On Monday, we shared a bottle of water, and marshmallows, and chips,” Klement told Business Insider.

On Tuesday, a friend who lives nearby was able to get an appointment to go shopping and picked up a few items for the couple. 

They didn’t want to ask their friend to help because people are limited to shop for 30 items each week, so anything their friend bought on their behalf would be one less item for his family, Klement said.

a sign on the side of a building: The couple is keeping a tally of the days they have been confined to their apartment. Linda Camaj

The Camajs said that they realize that there are people in the world, including the United States and Kuwait, that are in far worse situations than they are during this pandemic.

While they are uncomfortable, they have been able to make it work, they said. 

More than anything, the couple is frustrated with the lack of response from the US Department of State.

Klement said that when a friend from Britain, who is also in Kuwait, found herself in a similar situation her embassy sent groceries to the door.

He wasn’t expecting that kind of help from the US State Department, but was hoping that he could be provided with a document that allowed them to leave the apartment to buy food. 

The US Department of State didn’t immediately return a Business Insider message seeking comment. 

“I’m not asking for charity, just give me some sort of paper that lets me buy some food,” Klement told Business Insider. “I truly believe the role of my government is safeguarding its citizens.” 

Linda and Klement Camaj are continuing to look for flights home

As the total lockdown continues, the couple is continuing to try to order groceries online. 

The Kuwaiti government allows people to leave the house to walk between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., but the streets have been crowded. Many people have been out without masks, which is in violation of the lockdown, Linda said, leaving the couple feeling too unsafe to leave their homes.

Last week Kuwait’s Ministry of Health reported that it had registered its first three-digit jump in cases over 24 hours. On Thursday, an additional 947 positive coronavirus cases had been detected over a one day period, bringing the total in the country to 11,975, Al-Monitor reported.

Prior to the lockdown, the cases were in the 7,000 range, Klement said.

The couple feels that the rush to grocery stores over May 9 and 10 are responsible for the uptick. 

The couple is beginning to give up trying to go straight home. Instead, they’re looking at flights to Sweden or the Netherlands, where they have family. From there, they will look for flights to the US.

The couple said that after unsuccessful talks with the US embassy, they reached out to the Swedish and Dutch embassy. Neither one of them are citizens there, but found the people the reached on the phone to be more helpful to them in terms of offering advice.

“On the other hand, you have the world’s greatest superpower that says ‘sorry sir there’s nothing I can do for you,'” Klement said, referring to the US. “I felt like I was calling Verizon.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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