The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 highlighted the success of the Kingdom’s National Vaccination Campaign, backed by a reduction of transmission rates among all age groups by an average of 93%.
The Taskforce emphasised that the procedures put in place for arriving travellers from certain destinations to provide a PCR certificate will support to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will ensure the safety of citizens and residents. In this regard, the Taskforce noted that procedures are regularly reviewed and altered based on scientific data presented and developments on the virus.
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, commended His Majesty the King’s unwavering appreciation and support to the Kingdom’s national cadres, including frontline health workers and supporting staff, noting the relentless efforts of Team Bahrain, led by HRH the Crown Prince, in safeguarding public health.
Turning to the procedures placed for arriving passengers in the Kingdom, HE Dr. Al Manea highlighted the Kingdom’s thorough mitigation efforts, adding that capacity across hospitals is always reviewed to ensure medical services are not affected, given that COVID-19 related medical care, including examinations, isolation, treatments, and vaccinations, is free to all. HE Dr. Al Manea noted that the Kingdom has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
HE Dr. Al Manea added that during the months of March and April, only 2% of existing cases are travel related, which indicates that mandatory procedures put in place for incoming travellers to take PCR tests upon arrival, as well as on the 5th and 10th day of stay, are effective. In line with medical data, facts and figures, the requirement of a negative PCR test certificate for arrivals entering the Kingdom from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also further supports mitigation efforts.
Turning the National Vaccination Campaign, HE Dr. Al Manea called on citizens and residents to register for the first available COVID-19 vaccine appointment. HE Dr. Al Manea noted that all vaccines were approved by the National Health Regulatory Authority, with extensive studies provided by manufacturers on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
HE Dr. Al Manea further added that all manufactured vaccines go through a rigorous and multi-stage testing process by the World Health Organization. The WHO, through its assessment team and regulatory authorities from around the world, evaluates the information, and then the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) makes recommendations on the use of vaccines according to age groups and the time intervals between doses, and the producing companies must commit to continue to provide the WHO with data until obtaining full vaccine approval and passing the organisation’s pre-assessment for validity.
HE Dr. Al Manea stressed that there are several vaccines being studied by the World Health Organization, including the “Sinopharm” vaccine.
HE Dr. Al Manea underlined that the current goal is to reduce mortality rates and those entering hospitals and to continue efforts to reduce the number of existing cases, by increasing community immunity through vaccines. In addition, HE Dr. Al Manea emphasised the importance of following all health and social distancing measures, including in places of worship, hotels, restaurants, and cafes. In this regard, HE Dr. Al Manea noted that a lot of establishments and mosques have been closed due to violations of precautionary measures, and inspections are continuing in this regard.
HE Dr. Al Manea concluded by reviewing the total number of patients in isolation and treatment centres. Total capacity across isolation and treatment centres stands at 6249 beds, of which 3002 beds are occupied, representing 48% capacity. The number of existing asymptomatic cases for which optional home health isolation has been applied has reached 7383 cases. Recovery rate has reached 93.7% of existing cases, while the death rate is at 0.36% of existing 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 that studies of approved vaccines in the Kingdom of Bahrain have proven effective protecting individuals and reducing the severity of symptoms in the event of infection.
Turning to the studies made during January until today, Dr. Al Qahtani indicated that despite the presence of mutated strains of the virus, vaccines have provided immunity and have protected individuals by relieving symptoms. Dr. Al Qahtani added that the National Vaccination Campaign has reported a reduction of the transmission of infection among all age groups by an average of 93%, and the study also showed an increase in the percentage of existing cases among those who were not vaccinated, compared to a small percentage of those who are fully vaccinated and had completed 14 days since the last dose.
Dr. Al Qahtani explained that the number of existing cases that have been admitted to intensive care since January 2021 has reached 631 cases, of which 612 cases have not been vaccinated, or 97% of the total cases, and the study also revealed that 273 deaths have been recorded, since January 2021 of which 265 cases had not been vaccinated, i.e. 97% of the total cases. Dr Al Qahtani noted that these statistics show the importance of vaccines in immunising the community, reducing mortality rates and the number of critical cases by a very large percentage. In this regard, Dr. Al Qahtani further noted the importance of getting vaccinated to protect oneself and society.
On discussing various statistics related to clinical studies and medical studies, Dr. Al Qahtani noted that the information and statistics provided by both are accurate, however, it is important to be aware that clinical studies are made in a controlled environment with no external influences, and medical studies provide the required exposure for results on vaccine efficacy.
For her part, 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 Al Salman, emphasised the importance of continuing to adhere to all precautionary measures, and of getting vaccinated, as they are the two most important factors to ensure the virus is controlled.
On mutated strains, Dr. Jameela explained that many mutations have occurred to the virus due to external factors, and controlled studies have not yet proven which strains are the most dangerous because they are in constant change.
Dr. Jameela explained that for the vaccine to take the full intended effect, two doses must be administered, as the formation of antibodies may take up to 14 days after the last dose, highlighting the importance of taking the vaccine to be able to return back to normal life.
Dr. Al Salman emphasised that the elderly, pregnant and breast-feeding women, and those with chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, asthma, rheumatism, people with immunodeficiency, chronic kidney disease and cancer) need to get to strengthen their immunity.
Dr. Al Salman reiterated the importance of calling 444 if one experiences any symptoms related to the COVID-19, including, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fever.
Dr. Al Salman concluded by highlighting the importance of continuing to wash hands with soap and water, disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks when out, leaving home only when necessary, adhering to social distancing measures by avoiding gatherings, getting vaccinated, and taking the necessary preventive measures when being in close contact with the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, even within the same household, to avoid the possibility of transmitting the virus.