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 Hospital, to highlight measures taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al Manea, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and member of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), began by stating that regional and international research collaboration and information exchange helps to bolster progress in the treatment of COVID-19.
In this regard, Dr. Al Manea noted that the Ministry of Health has announced the initiation of a phase III clinical trial for a COVID-19 inactivated vaccine, in collaboration with G42 Healthcare, an artificial intelligence company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Dr. Al Manea added that the National Medical Taskforce is closely monitoring COVID-19 cases with the reopening of certain sectors, paying particular attention to the percentage of positive cases, total active cases, hospital occupancy rate, and the number of cases requiring medical care.
Dr. Al Manea warned that a failure to comply with precautionary measures will accelerate the spread of the virus, which will require a roll-back in the phased reopening.
Turning to patient outcome, Dr. Al Manea explained that the recovery rate is currently at 92.6% with a 0.4% death rate. Isolation centre capacity stands at 21%, with 1,752 out of 8,357 beds occupied, and 1,383 asymptotic cases are under optional home self-isolation after meeting the set criteria.
Speaking on the vaccine trials, Lt. Col. Manaf Al Qahtani, Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), emphasised that the inactivated vaccine does not cause infection, but triggers an immune response producing antibodies to fight the virus. The effectiveness of the produced antibodies will then be assessed as a measure of the success of the vaccine.
Dr. Manaf added that the trial follows the successful completion of the first two phases in China, which have reported good success rates. The first trial proved the effectiveness of the vaccine while the second trial tested the immunogenic of the vaccine on a limited number of volunteers.
On this note, Dr. Manaf revealed that the trial will enlist up to 6000 volunteers who have not previously contracted COVID-19, are over the age of 18, and are willing to undergo a health assessment, in accordance with set health requirements.
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), noted that Bahrain has safeguarded freedom of movement for citizens and resident while restricting gatherings to minimise the spread of the virus – a process that has set precedents for the reopening of selected sectors at each stage of the phased reopening plan whilst avoiding roll-backs.
Dr. Al Salman noted that the Ministry is continuously expanding COVID-19 testing capacity to identify, isolate and break chains of infection, adding that random community-based testing sites has helped identify asymptomatic cases.
Dr. Al Salman went on to recognise the importance of continuing to adhere to preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and allow for the next phases of reopening, as emphasised by the WHOs recent conference and call to “Do it all ” when complying with preventative measures.
Dr. Al Salman underlined that these preventative measures have now been adopted by the majority of the community since the discovery of the first case in Bahrain, 5 months ago.
Dr. Al Salman reviewed the health status of active cases, confirming 3,097 stable cases from a total of 3,135 active cases. Currently, 97 COVID-19 cases are receiving treatment, of which 38 are in a critical condition. Dr. Al Salman noted that over 923,000 tests have been conducted to date.