Thursday, July 2, 2020

National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emphasises responsibility in following measures to safeguard the community

The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) held a press conference at the Crown Prince Centre for Training and Medical Research at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital to highlight COVID-19 developments and emphasise the importance of strictly following all measures to ensure the safety of the community.

The Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and member of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Waleed Al Manea, highlighted that the Ministry of Health is monitoring viral indicators in order to shape the necessary precautionary measures required to be followed, adding that all relevant authorities will take legal measures against retail entities that do not follow these measures.

Dr. Al Manea noted Team Bahrain’s success in transforming the challenges presented by COVID-19 into opportunities to further develop skills, in addition to launching several innovative initiatives to support national efforts to combat the virus.

Regarding the recent announcement of precautionary measures to be followed during funeral ceremonies issued by the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19),

Dr. Al Manea emphasised the importance of ensuring that funerals are attended by close family members only, ensuring social distancing is observed by limiting interactions, wearing face masks and gloves, as well as committing to receive condolence messages via social media platforms from others.

Dr. Al Manea noted that based on a proposal submitted by the Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs, and following the recommendation of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID19), the Government’s Executive Committee, chaired by HRH the Crown Prince, has decided to allow the resumption of indoor and outdoor training for professional athletes and national teams, in accordance with set guidelines.

It has also decided that local sports leagues may resume activities without spectators, from mid-July. In this regard, Dr. Al Manea highlighted the efforts made by the Kingdom’s Public Awareness Campaign to Combat the Coronavirus to ensure citizens and residents continue to adhere to preventative measures aimed at safeguarding the community.

In this regard, Dr. Al Manea extended gratitude to the continued efforts made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate with various embassies within the Kingdom, which has led to embassies positively contributing to these campaigns and participating the awareness of their nationals in the Kingdom.

Dr. Al Manea went on to provide statistics on registered cases within the Kingdom, outlining that the percentage of those recovering has reached 70.45% of registered cases, with a death rate of 0.24% of registered cases.

Current isolation capacities are at 8,170 beds, of which 3,922 beds are occupied. 1,718 active asymptomatic cases meeting the required criteria are following optional home self-isolation measures. Dr. Al Manea further indicated that quarantine capacity is at 3,410 beds, of which 668 are occupied.

The Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Lt. Col. Manaf Al Qahtani, highlighted that the increase in laboratory tests has indicated an increase in contacts of active cases, adding that to date, more than 60,000 individuals have been tested as suspected contacts of active cases.

Dr. Al Qahtani noted that the Kingdom continues to modify its treatment protocols and strategies, including the use of plasma from recovered individuals.

Dr. Al Qahtani further noted that during April, a committee headed by the Royal Medical Services Commander, Major General HE Shaikh Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa, was established to conduct clinical research related to COVID-19, with a blood bank accepting plasma donations launched at the BDF Hospital, where more than 200 recovered patients were able to donate.

Clarifying the medical theory behind the use of plasma, Dr. Al Qahtani explained that once an individual becomes sick, the body’s immunity produces antibodies, which are proteins used to help the body fight the specific virus. Recovered patients have proven to be successful in producing these antibodies, which are located in the blood’s plasma.

Dr. Al Qahtani outlined that recovered patients are able to donate plasma by providing blood, which takes around 10 minutes, which is then used for current active cases by Convalescent plasma therapy across various isolation centres in the Kingdom. Dr. Al Qahtani added that extracting blood from recovered patients does not lessen their immunity from the virus.

Dr. Al Qahtani highlighted that individuals who wish to donate blood for Convalescent plasma therapy, are required to fit the following criteria. Individuals must:

• Have recovered from COVID-19

• Maintain good health

• Have completed the obligatory quarantine period of 14 days, with a negative Exit Test result

• Should be between the ages of 21 and 60, and maintain a weight of 50kg and above

Additionally, females wishing to donate blood for Convalescent plasma therapy should not have been pregnant before in order to donate.

Dr. Al Qahtani added that donating blood to help combat the virus is a national responsibility, and all recovered citizens and residents are welcome to contribute by contacting the blood donation department at the Royal Medical Services section.

For his part, the Project Manager of Public Hospital Autonomy at the Supreme Council of Health, Lt. Col. Ahmed Mohammed Al-Ansari, expressed his gratitude to all citizens and residents who have vigilantly followed precautionary measures, as well as the professionals across the health, security, services and media who have tirelessly worked day and night to support national efforts to combat COVID-19.

Dr. Al Ansari stressed the importance of continuing to follow social distancing guidelines by leaving a 2-meter distance when interacting with others. Dr Al Ansari then outlined statistics linked to evaluating viral community contamination, adding that there are 5 indicators that are relied upon to measure this:

  1. The “Doubling Time”, which indicates the time taken to double the total cases. International standards have stressed the importance of ensuring the doubling of cases does not occur within less than a two-week period. If the period is less than two weeks, it indicates that the spread of COVID-19 is higher than the average.

    Additionally, Dr. Al Ansari outlined that the “Doubling Time” among citizens during the past two months has ranged between 27 days to 11 days, indicating that on June 13, the time taken to double cases reached 11 days. This reflects an accelerated spread of the virus among citizens, due to the lack of adherence to the preventative measures and guidelines, noted Dr Al Ansari.

  2. The percentage of new active cases compared to recovered cases, which should be in a ratio of 1:1. If the number of active cases increases with respect to recovered cases and exceeds this ratio, this indicates a wider spread of the virus. Dr. Al Ansari noted that the percentage of active cases in the past week versus recovering cases has ranged between 0.8% to 1.6%, and accordingly it is again advised for all to strictly follow the precautionary measures.
  3. The calculation of the rate of positive test results (active cases) to the total number of daily COVID-19 tests, where the percentage of positive results should not exceed more than 5% of the total number of COVID-19 tests. In this regard, Dr. Al Ansari added that the percentage of positive results during the past weeks in comparison to the total number of COVID-19 tests in the Kingdom has ranged between 5.7% to 9%. This indicates consistency in the spread of the virus and is a further reminder of the importance of fully adhering to guidelines set to mitigate its spread.
  4. The Estimated Instantaneous Reproduction Number, Community R(t), which is the number of secondary cases arising from an initial active case, with the number R1 meaning that a person only transmits the virus to one other person. Dr. Al Ansari further highlighted that the Estimated Instantaneous Reproduction Number in the Kingdom last week ranged between 1.3% to 1.8%, adding that the ratio should be less than 1 in order overcome the virus.
  5. The Kingdom’s healthcare capacity and medical staff, are considered the fifth indicator to evaluate viral transmission. Al Ansari highlighted that isolation and quarantine capacities, and medical health professionals on ground to support active cases, are always evaluated to determine viral transmission.

In this regard, Dr. Al Ansari stressed that the Kingdom is fully prepared and equipped for any future action that may be required, noting Bahrain can deal with 10,000 active cases per day based on the existing level of preparedness.

Moreover, Dr. Al Ansari reiterated the importance for citizens and residents to vigilantly follow all measures aimed at safeguarding the community and mitigating the spread of the virus.

For her part, the Consultant of Infectious and Internal Diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex, Dr. Jameela Salman, member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), highlighted that the Ministry has increased its daily COVID-19 testing capacity, to ensure early detection and treatment of active cases, adding that to date the Ministry has conducted more than 438,000 tests.

Dr. Al Salman reviewed the health status of COVID-19 cases, noting that total active cases has reached 5,640. 133 active cases require treatment, of which 27 are critical, whilst 5,613 cases are stable. Meanwhile, 13,866 individuals have recovered and have been discharged from isolation and quarantine centres.

On this note, Dr. Al Salman stressed the importance of wearing face masks when in public settings, including during outdoor recreation, as well as when in close proximity to family members with underlying health conditions or when in close proximity to elder family members. This decision does not extend to when driving cars or participating in strenuous activities, such as running, swimming or cycling.

Dr. Al Salman emphasised the importance of continuing to wash hands regularly using water and soap, using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, frequently disinfecting surfaces and objects that are used regularly, covering the mouth when coughing, immediately disposing of used napkins and tissues, and avoiding direct contact with anyone with a fever or a cough.

Dr. Al Salman concluded the press conference by noting that individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact the 444 hotline number and follow the guidelines provided, stressing that it is everyone’s responsibility to rigorously follow all health guidelines to ensure the safety of the community.

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