The National Medical 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 Hospital, to provide an update on the COVID-19 response in the Kingdom.
The Taskforce praised HRH the Prime Minister’s initiative launching the “Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Award for Bahraini Doctor”, which supports the Kingdom’s national health professionals and medical research and contributes to the further development of the health sector. In this regard, the Taskforce congratulated the recipients within its first two categories, which include “innovation and creativity in curative, clinical and medical research” and “extended loyalty and giving”.
Speaking on behalf of medical workers, Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al Manea, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), began by expressing his deep appreciation for HRH the Crown Prince’s recognition of the sacrifices made by first responders and supporting staff during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Dr. Al Manea highlighted HRH the Crown Prince’s remarks noting that protecting yourself and your family through preventative action has a tangible effect on protecting the Kingdom’s community, as evident by the 45% decrease in active COVID-19 cases recorded on 13 October, reaching 3773 cases in comparison with 17 September, which recorded the highest amount of cases being recorded reaching 6885 active cases. In this regard, Dr. Al Manea noted that the responsibility exhibited by both citizens and residents was visible over the past four weeks, underscoring the importance of continuing to commit to the health guidelines issued by the Taskforce.
Dr. Al Manea further underscored the importance of continuing to observe social distancing guidelines, by limiting interactions with individuals outside of ones’ household, only being in public when necessary, wearing masks when out in public, and ensuring others around are following all health guidelines.
Dr. Al Manea went on to highlight that in line with the latest updates which are periodically assessed, and based on the recommendations of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), indoor dining services at restaurants and cafes will resume on 24 October, capped at 30 customers per café/restaurant, and the gradual return to in-person teaching at public schools and private nurseries will resume on 25 October, depending on their guardians choice regarding in-person learning.
Dr. Al Manea spoke of the recently introduced rapid antigen tests, which delivers on-the-spot results in 15 minutes at a lower price without the requirement for specialty lab equipment, noting that this technology is not intended to replace PCR testing.
Dr. Al Manea affirmed that the rapid antigen testing has the potential to play a significant role in reducing the spread of the virus by massively increasing testing in a short-period of time, particularly with the return to in-person teaching at public schools.
Dr. Al Manea went on to state that the rapid antigen test pilot aims to target 20,000 individuals, including schools, healthcare workers and symptomatic patients, during the upcoming period, to date over 8,000 tests have been conducted.
Dr. Al Manea noted that the Taskforce has collaborated with the Ministry of Education to ensure the safe return of students to school, adding that health teams have been formed for each school to facilitate the process, and ensure health measures are being implemented for a safe learning environment.
Turning to the health guidelines initiated in public schools across the Kingdom, Dr. Al Manea highlighted that among the instructions to be followed when identifying a suspected case, is to ensure the school notifies the competent health authorities, communicate with parents, isolate the active case in a designated area at the school premises, identifying the contacts of the active case, as well as other guidelines such as classroom capacity, which include leaving a distance of not less than a meter and a half between student chairs. Dr. Al-Manea reiterated that the health and safety of students is a top priority, and procedures will be followed to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
Turning to patient outcomes, Dr. Al Manea explained that the recovery rate is currently at 95.61% with a 0.39% death rate. Isolation centre occupancy stands at 10.8%, with 764 beds occupied out of 7,080 available, and 2,375 asymptomatic cases under optional home self-isolation after meeting the set criteria.
On treatment protocols, Lt. Col. Manaf Al Qahtani, Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), reiterated that Bahrain has reduced total active cases by 45% with the commitment and perseverance of citizens and residents, over the past 4 weeks.
Dr. Manaf invited fully recovered patients to donate their blood plasma at the BDF Hospital’s Blood Bank, noting that the BDF Hospital’s Blood Bank is now welcoming those who wish to donate their plasma between the hours of 7:30 to 13:00, Sunday to Wednesday, and 12:30 to 18:00 on Thursday. For more information, Dr Manaf encouraged those recovered individuals, who meet the criteria for donating, to call BDF-RMS Blood Donations at +973 17766279.
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 self-isolation period
• Should be between the ages of 18 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. Manaf expressed his pride in the 7,700 volunteers who have contributed to the third phase of the COVID-19 vaccine trial in Bahrain, noting that a dedicated medical team will continue monitoring volunteers for a duration of up to 12 months.
The Consultant of Infectious and Internal Diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Jameela Salman, reviewed the health status of active cases, confirming 3,108 stable cases from a total of 3,139 active cases. Currently, 65 COVID-19 cases are receiving treatment, of which 31 are in a critical condition. Dr. Al Salman noted that more than 1,638,000 tests have been conducted to date.
Dr. Al Salman stressed that face masks must be worn at all times 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 elderly family members. This decision does not extend to when driving cars or participating in strenuous activities, such as running, swimming or cycling.