Kuwait’s 91-year-old ruler has been admitted to hospital for a medical checkup and the country’s crown prince will temporarily carry out some of his duties, the oil-rich nation’s state-run news agency has reported.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah was in “good health”, the KUNA news agency said on Saturday, citing a statement from the country’s diwan minister.
A royal order was issued assigning Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the emir’s designated successor, “to take over some constitutional jurisdictions of His Highness the Emir temporarily”, Kuna said in a separate statement.
The hospital visit comes as the nation continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen more than 58,000 cases and 400 related deaths in the country of 4.1 million. Its health ministry says more than 49,000 people have recovered from the virus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.
In August 2019, Kuwait acknowledged the emir suffered an unspecified medical “setback” that required him to be hospitalised.
That came after visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that he was “praying for Emir’s speedy recovery”, without elaborating.
Sheikh Sabah has ruled Kuwait since January 2006. He has pushed for diplomacy to solve regional issues, such as the continuing boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations, and hosted major donor conferences for war-torn nations like Iraq and Syria.
Sheikh Sabah had a pacemaker implanted in 2000 and underwent successful urinary tract surgery in the United States in August 2007.
Kuwait’s central bank governor issued a statement after news of the emir’s hospitalisation stressing the strength and stability of the dinar currency, which is pegged to a weighted basket of the country’s big trading partners.
S&P Global Ratings on Friday revised Kuwait’s outlook to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, saying it expects the country’s main liquidity buffer, the General Reserve Fund, to be insufficient to cover the state budget deficit.
The government has been trying to bolster its finances which have been hit by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, and has been rapidly running down the General Reserve Fund.