Kuwait's new Amir was sworn in at parliament today as the country prepared to lay to rest late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who helped steer the US-allied Gulf state through some of the Middle East's most turbulent decades.

The cabinet named designated successor Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah as ruler on Tuesday following the death of Sheikh Sabah, 91, whose body is due to arrive in Kuwait today from the United States were he had been hospitalised since July.

Nawaf, 83, pledged to work for the OPEC member country's prosperity, stability and security after taking the oath of office.

"Our dear nation today faces difficult situations and dangerous challenges that can only be overcome ... by unifying ranks and working hard together," he told the National Assembly.

The funeral has been restricted to ruling family members due to concerns about coronavirus.

When the previous Amir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, died in 2006, thousands of Kuwaitis attended the funeral and many, along with expatriates, lined the streets.

"We honestly feel like we're going to be lost without his guidance," said Fajer, a Kuwaiti woman.

Dignitaries from around the world paid respects to the seasoned diplomat and savvy politician, widely respected as a humanitarian who strove to heal rifts in the Middle East, mending ties with former occupier Iraq and trying until his death to resolve the Gulf dispute.

Sheikh Nawaf takes the reins of the small nation, which holds the world's seventh-largest oil reserves, at a time when the government is trying to boost the finances of a country whose citizens enjoy a cradle-to-grave welfare system.

Kuwait's oil, investment and foreign policy are not expected to change.