Bahrain’s approach to tackling Covid praised

BAHRAIN was prepared to face the waves of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on a war footing almost six months in advance, said an expert.

Agreeing that the “war against Covid-19” was still on, Abbott senior director for government affairs, Middle East, Africa and Pakistan James Cordahi lauded Bahrain’s flexible approach, which he experienced personally while mobilising more than a million rapid test kits for the kingdom.

He was part of a panel that discussed Bahrain as a case study on the topic ‘Building Resilient Healthcare Systems in the Gulf’, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Bahrain yesterday.

The online discussion also featured National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) chief executive Dr Mariam Al Jalahma, BDF Hospital microbiologist Professor Dr Manaf Al Qahtani, Research and Strategic Studies Assistant Under-Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister of Bahrain Hamad Al Mahmeed and US Ambassador Steven Bondy.

“I just want to emphasise that Bahrain was a good six months ahead of the waves in terms of dealing with the virus and testing,” said Mr Cordahi.

“It (fighting Covid) was essentially a war, and let’s be honest, the war isn’t necessarily over, as the World Health Organisation says the pandemic is still ongoing, but the worst has passed.

“Hats off to Bahrain for being flexible in a difficult situation and for being the first in the region to go from point of care antigen testing for Covid-19.”

Bahrain conducted nearly four million rapid antigen detection tests (RADT) and allowed people to monitor themselves up until last month since August 2020.

“When it comes to testing, it is primarily focused on testing in the lab. What Covid-19 has shown is that self-testing, which is not something that was perfectly natural to this part of the world, is now widely available.

Dr Al Qahtani listed four principles that were unique to Bahrain which helped the country effectively battle the pandemic: Preparedness by building up own data, surveillance and forecast, communication and using various tools in therapeutics.

“We were really prepared from every aspect not just from the health, but also economy and education. When we built the resilience system, we completely separated Covid and non-Covid pathways.”

This ensured treatment of non-Covid cases under a dedicated team.

“With forecasting, surveillance and testing being very important, we started with one lab for PCR testing and now we have 16 qualified labs with the capacity to conduct up to 30,000 tests, as against the 100 tests a week done before.”

Communication was done on three levels: Daily briefing of the top executives with the national task force, a meeting with the medical team and transparently with the public.

“We also had to train all the personnel, knowing at one point we’re going to have some cases that are going to need an intensive care unit (ICU).

“We have built up a capacity of 7,000 beds over one-and-a-half years to look after just Covid-19 and a capacity of 500 ICU beds.

“All of these were communicated to the public, which was important to gain their trust.

“Finally, when it comes to any pandemic you need to pay for the tools, not only testing or vaccine, but even the treatment.

“So we have secured many different therapeutics in Bahrain and mainly the monoclonals; we are first in the region to establish the first outpatient clinic when it comes for the monoclonal therapy (a way of treating Covid-19 to help prevent hospitalisations, reduce viral loads and lessen symptom severity).”




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