Dr. Muhammad Shaban, Head of Health programs & Policies of the Supreme Council of health and member of the national team to address the Coronavirus during the information session organized by the World Health Organization reviewed the kingdom of Bahrain’s conduct to reduce the spread of the virus and by taking all the preventive measures.
Here are the excerpts from Dr. Muhammad Al Shaban’s interview for our readers.
Can Do you detail the nature of the information session on COVID-19 organized by WHO?
I would start by thanking His Majesty the King, His Royal Highness the Prime Minister and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and national task force in their combat against the coronavirus, their constant follow up and support granted to the medical community during this pandemic. I must also thank the people, the citizens and residents of Bahrain for being aware and abiding instructions to beat this pandemic.
Many countries came together to discuss their experiences in the fight against the coronavirus COVID-19 information session on COVID-19 organized by WHO. Health Ministers or representatives of the ministry of health presented the timeline of events, how the virus entered their nation, how the cases manifested among their people, and what actions did the governmental authorities take to curb the spread through the different mitigation measures. This information is shared, lessons learned are shared so that countries can take what measures are working effectively.
You presented a brief about the measures taken by Bahrain to curb the spread of the virus. Can you please summarize these measures?
Bahrain from the outset took a multifaceted approach with the spread of the virus in the People’s Republic of China and other nations in Asia in early January. Bahrain opted to form the national task force to combat Coronavirus on January the 26th. So this task force set the policies forward for the mitigation measures. If we look at the measures taken by sector we established an intensive and comprehensive testing team. A makeshift testing center was erected in the heart of the capital through the exhibition center. This center as well as those in the other parts of the country has a testing capacity of about 8,000 tests per day.
So Bahrain has one of the highest testing per capita in the world. On top of the fact that the MTC also got involved in contact tracing and testing and quantitating any case that turns out to be positive. It’s on top of providing prediction through epidemiologists and using assessment premises to see where Bahrain is going in terms of coronavirus in order to review our mitigation measures regularly. Now we also have a medical team that’s been working 24/7. This team is working to map the isolation and quarantine and treatment centers for chronic cases. This is what’s formulating the latest protocol for treatment and discharge by directly communicating with world health bodies and reviewing these protocols regularly. The foreign affairs team was involved with setting the travel restrictions to and from endemic areas and at the same time with communication with the citizens that are abroad who wishes to come back. So that team initiated a repatriation program in March and through 37 chartered flights managed to bring back 3,000 Bahraini citizens.
Obviously a security team is with us around the clock and that team takes care of transporting positive cases to isolation facilities and providing security in these facilities. They are also getting involved in spreading awareness and messages to the different communities of Bahrain. The economics team was also involved by announcing the economic package. Where Bahrain was aiding, especially the SMEs and having to pay for employees during the three months of April to June. The fees for the utilities have been levied during that month and deferred loan payments because of the anticipated effects on the economy. The educational team was also involved so Bahrain was from the outset, since the discovery of the first case on February the 24th, had a closure of schools and higher educational institutions.
Now despite that closure, the ministry of education still opted to continue providing lessons through online platforms. Actually a Nashville channel on Bahrain TV was transformed to become an educational channel where these lessons have been aired and then uploaded in an online platform so education can continue. Obviously getting the community involved is essential and it’s key
Comprehensive media campaign in different languages launched. That’s in a nutshell as to how the Bahraini mitigation measures went about.
Can you tell us more about the involvement of Bahrain in studies and trials that are being conducted by different bodies around the world?
The clinical research committee of the national task force involves representatives from the task force as well as representatives from the different research communities in Bahrain. The committee reviews all proposals related to clinical research for COVID-19. It also communicates with different governing bodies involved in international cohort study such as a solidarity trial with the WHO.
Bahrain has one of the highest recovery rates in the region. Other countries can learn from the Bahrain experience of why we have such high recovery rates. We were one of the first to be using the hydroxychloroquine drug in March. That’s one trial. We’re also involved in other trials including the infusion of plasma from recovered patients.
What’s your message to Bahrain?
We are in this together. So, please abide by the instructions provided by the authorities. Do the simple things. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Carry a sanitizer with you. Wear a face mask, and avoid public places whenever possible. Practice social distancing. If you feel you have, or in any doubt, have any symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who is positive, please call 444. It’s a 24-hour hotline in different languages so that concerned authorities can help direct you in the right direction.