The National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) provides an update on the COVID-19 response in the Kingdom

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Manama, Apr. 4 (BNA): The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) today held a press conference to provide an update on the Kingdom’s COVID-19 response, at the Crown Prince Centre for Training and Medical Research, Bahrain Defence Force Hospital.


The Taskforce emphasised that the best way to mitigate the spread of  COVID-19 is by following all health and precautionary measures, getting vaccinated, and to stop gatherings in homes and other locations. The Taskforce further emphasised that following all precautionary measures is everybody’s responsibility, to ensure our families and communities are protected.


The Chief of Public Security, HE Lt.-Gen. Tariq bin Hassan al-Hassan, highlighted that the Ministry of Interior continues to safeguard the health of Bahraini citizens and residents by reviewing COVID-19 related measures across retail stores and restaurants in cooperation with the relevant authorities.


HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan explained that police units continue to carry out campaigns against anyone violating the precautionary measures with the number of violations for not wearing a face mask reaching 66,714, and 8,786 violations for not maintaining social distance.


On strengthening preventative measures across correction and rehabilitation centres, HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan added that, best international standards have been implemented, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, to ensure the health and safety of inmates and staff in correction and rehabilitation centres. HE Lt. Gen. Al-Hassan noted that new inmates are obliged to quarantine, and sterilisation teams are formed in cooperation with the Civil Defense.


Turning to COVID-19 cases among inmates, HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan emphasised that inmates receive round-the-clock health care by a specialised medical staff in a medical centre designated for quarantine of the Ministry of Health and in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, adding that existing cases among the inmates are stable. HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan noted that all inmates who have signed up for the optional vaccine have received it, free of charge.


HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan highlighted that the General Administration of correction and rehabilitation centres has today arranged visits for vaccinated inmates, provided that their families or those who wish to visit them are vaccinated as well. All visitors are also obliged to take a COVID-19 PCR test before visiting. HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan added that inmates with COVID-19 are also provided the opportunity to contact their families to reassure them on their health.


HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan emphasised that work is underway to prepare a new list of inmates who meet the criteria for alternative penalties and to define the areas in which they will spend their sentence in order to achieve the required reform goals and reintegrate them into society, noting that the correction and rehabilitation centres are accommodating unscheduled visits from human rights organisations including the National Institute for Human Rights, who have commended the health services provided to inmates.


HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan warned against attempts to seek to politicize healthcare conditions through misinformation, when health safety measures provided to inmates continues to be of a high standard. Those who use these tactics give little though to the unnecessary stress they cause the families of inmates” In this regard, HE Lt.-Gen. Al-Hassan stressed the danger of getting involved in misleading and systematic incitement, which may have legal consequences


For his part, the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and Member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), HE Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al Manea, emphasised the importance of following all health and precautionary measures, given that COVID-19 cases are rising, and yesterday reached a staggering 1,316 cases.


HE Dr. Al Manea stressed the need to avoid gatherings of all kinds, as the contact tracing mechanism revealed that gatherings are one of the main causes of transmission, noting that contact tracing data revealed last March that 91% of cases were due to gatherings in homes and other locations. HE Dr. Al Manea further stressed that since 1 January this year, the infection rate has been 70% for Bahraini citizens and 30% for expatriates.


HE Dr. Al Manea noted the importance of limiting gatherings to immediate family members living in the same household, and to continue to adhere to social distancing measures as well as to wear masks. HE Dr. Al Manea added that masks should also be worn when in close contact with a member of the family with underlying conditions, or the elderly.


HE Dr. Al Manea then called on all to take the initiative and vaccinate via the Ministry of Health’s website or the ‘BeAware’ application. In this regard, HE Dr. Al Manea added that the elderly, pregnant women, people with underlying conditions and those suffering from obesity should get vaccinated as soon as possible. 


On the efforts of the National Vaccination Campaign, HE Dr. Al Manea noted that an additional vaccination centre has launched in Sitra Mall, and an additional testing centre launched in the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club in Sakhir, with the aim to double the capacity for conducting COVID-19 laboratory tests. HE Dr. Al Manea further noted that each and every person holds the responsibility to support national efforts, by following all measures and limiting gatherings.


HE Dr. Al Manea underlined that since 1 January until today, there have been 175 deaths in Bahrain, and among these one case who suffered with underlying health conditions was reported to have been vaccinated.


Turning to the occupancy across the Kingdom’s isolation and treatment centres, HE Dr. Al Manea noted that the capacity of the isolation and treatment centres stand at 5880 beds, of which occupancy reached 2749 beds, representing 46.8% of the capacity.  The current number of cases for which optional home isolation has been applied reached 6,935 cases. The percentage of recovery stands at 93.09% of current cases, while the death rate is at 0.36% of the current cases.


Then, the Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Lt. Col. Dr. Manaf Al Qahtani, highlighted Team Bahrain’s relentless efforts in safeguarding the health of all citizens and residents.


Dr. Al Qahtani emphasised that the increase in cases has presented a new challenge to ensure the population follows the health and precautionary measures that have been reiterated since the onset of the global pandemic. Dr. Al Qahtani added that vaccination is important, and getting the correct information from medical professionals is essential.


Speaking of vaccines, Dr. Al Qahtani indicated that 99.2% of current COVID-19 cases had not been vaccinated, and those fully vaccinated did not exceed 0.86% of the total number of current cases. Dr. Al Qahtani noted that the percentage confirms that all vaccinations approved in the Kingdom of Bahrain are safe in reducing the severity of the virus and effective in protecting individuals.


Dr. Al Qahtani reiterated the importance of taking any available vaccine, as all of them are effective and contribute to the formation of the necessary immunity, especially the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, cancer, obesity and diseases that cause a weak immune system. In this regard, Dr. Al Qahtani highlighted that the elderly who are over 60 can go directly to their community public health centres to receive the "Sinopharm" vaccine without an appointment, or to the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre to take the "Sputnik" vaccine without an appointment.


Turning to the National Vaccination Campaign, Dr. Al Qahtani noted the Campaign’s aim is to reach a high percentage of vaccinations by the end of April. Dr. Al Qahtani noted the risks of complacency after taking the first dose of vaccination or even after completing the two doses, pointing to the need to continue to adhere to all precautionary measures of wearing masks and adhering to social distancing measures, including washing and sanitising hands.


Dr. Jameela Al Salman, Consultant of Infectious and Internal Diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), then emphasised that contact tracing operations showed that one existing case resulted in large number of cases among family members who do not share the same household, and these results reflect a lack of commitment to reducing family gatherings, and negligence in adhering to established procedures.


Dr. Al Salman went on to urge all to stay at home and not go out except when necessary, and to follow essential preventive measures when in contact with the elderly and patients with chronic diseases even within the same household to reduce the risk of transmission, stressing the need to stay away from social gatherings.


Dr. Al Salman stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, especially for those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, asthma, rheumatism, immunocompromised patients, chronic kidney disease and cancer, adding that the vaccination will contributes to increasing their antibodies and strengthening their immune system.


Dr. Al Salman emphasised that if any individual experiences COVID-19 related symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty breathing, or high temperature, to contact 444 and follow the instructions given in this regard.


Dr. Al Salman concluded the press conference by reviewing the number of current COVID-19 related hospitalisations, which reached 68 cases, the cases receiving treatment reached 157 cases, while 9616 cases were in stable condition out of the current total number of cases, which reached 9684 cases. A total of 137,555 cases have recovered from the virus.