Bahrain’s Covid fight wins praise from WHO

BAHRAIN has won the vote of confidence from a top World Health Organisation (WHO) official, who stated that the country can effectively tackle all emerging variants of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) Infection Hazards Prevention Manager Dr Abdinasir Abubakar said new mutants could be discovered in the kingdom and the region in the coming days.

He, however, added that vaccines were effective in combating these variants and recombinants, and Bahrain being a highly vaccinated country can tackle them with ease.

Dr Abubakar was responding to the GDN at a virtual Press briefing yesterday, along with EMRO regional director Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari, regional emergency director Dr Richard Brennan, and programme management head Dr Rana Hajjeh.

“With viruses, mutation is common and unavoidable, and we will continue to see new variants of Covid-19 in the months and years to come, because there is intense transmission worldwide and also within the region,” said Dr Abubakar.

“We expect new variants and, most likely, a new recombinant of different variants, whether it’s Delta-Omicron or a sub lineage of these.

“Nonetheless, the good news is that majority of the WHO-approved vaccines currently in use have proven effective in preventing severe infections and deaths.

“Many countries in the region, including Bahrain, have achieved high vaccine coverage, and there is strong evidence that the majority of these nations have achieved a significant reduction in severe cases of hospitalisation and deaths.”

However, he expressed concern about countries that have yet to meet the WHO’s vaccine target of 70 per cent coverage.

“WHO is working with member states, academia and researchers to monitor existing variants, their mutations and evolution,” said Dr Abubakar.

“So far, the two recombinants that have been documented are Delta-Omicron, and the recombinants of Omicron, BA1 and BA1.2. None of these have shown any severe impact, the existing vaccines are effective for both.”

Recombinants arise when more than one variant infects and replicates in the same person, in the same cells.

As of April 16, EMRO has reported almost 21.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 342,000 deaths. There has been a 21pc decrease in the number of newly reported cases this week and a 24pc fall in deaths compared with the previous week.

Dr Al Mandhari also warned about the low vaccination coverage in several countries, and the relaxation of public health and social measures, which he said allows for continued transmission and the risk of new variants emerging.

“Our region will host a number of important mass gatherings and events in the coming months, including Umrah and Haj pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia and the Fifa World Cup in Qatar,” he said.

“We are working with the authorities in these countries, along with WHO headquarters and partners, to ensure that systems are in place to protect millions of travellers from around the world and prevent further transmission of Covid-19 and other emerging infectious diseases.”

As of Tuesday, 42pc of the region’s population have been fully vaccinated, 8pc partially inoculated and 9pc have taken the booster. Only five of 22 countries in the region have met the global goal of vaccinating 70pc of the population, despite enough vaccine stocks being available, noted Dr Al Mandhari.

“Earlier this month, the Covid-19 emergency committee met and agreed that the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern.

“This is not the time to drop our guard. We need to work even harder, together, to save lives.”




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