Four million rapid antigen tests in Covid-19 battle

BAHRAIN conducted nearly four million rapid antigen detection tests (RADT) for Covid-19 and allowed people to monitor themselves, which removed the stigma associated with the virus and resulted in effective infection control.

According to data presented at the Harvard International Forum on Covid-19, the country has conducted 3,943,597 RADTs until date.

More than 2m were performed in public and private schools, 1.5m by members of the community as part of random screening, 200,000 on teams and at sporting events, 94,085 in hospitals and emergency rooms and 145,512 in health centres.

The soaring popularity and acceptance of at-home rapid tests proved to be a turning point in the country’s battle against the virus. Bahrain allowed those who tested positive at home to drive through to facilities for a free RT-PCR test, which according to National Taskforce to Combat Covid-19 monitoring committee head Lieutenant Colonel Dr Manaf Al Qahtani, removed the ‘stigma’ of being checked for the virus.


Bahrain conducted nearly four million rapid antigen detection tests for the coronavirus

“Free access to PCR tests without appointment resulted in a dynamic shift as authorities no longer had to search for cases – people willingly poured into centres to report their results,” the BDF Hospital microbiologist pointed out.

“This decreased the likelihood of outbreaks and the burden on contact tracing teams.”

Bahrain first introduced RADT in November 2020. Performed as a nasal swab, it produced results within 15 minutes with an accuracy rate of more than 93pc.

“The whole idea of RADT was to trace infectious people and it was almost six months from the pandemic when we introduced it,” explained Lt Col Dr Al Qahtani.

“People were tired of (RT-PCR) tests by then. So we decided to use other tools to engage the community and launched a pilot study on RADTs – over 1.5m rapid tests were done, including in schools, before it was rolled out to the public.

“I think RADT proved the right tool - we used it at all major gatherings including some international sporting events, which ensured their success without compromising the safety of the public.

“I am proud to say that every single household in the kingdom today knows how to perform an antigen test.”

In September last year, the GDN reported that Bahrain had conducted almost one million RADT among school children since August 2020, which according to Lt Col Dr Al Qahtani, helped in keeping the test positivity rate among children low and to reopen schools in Bahrain.

Lt Col Dr Al Qahtani

“Bahrain’s testing rationale in schools involved early detection, preventing the spread of the virus in a classroom setting and the surrounding community,” he said.

“A layered approach was incorporated as part of mitigation measures which included – frequent testing and increased vaccinations combined with multiple prevention strategies. All students were tested daily for free, with instant and accurate results, and frequency and scope of testing balanced to fit schools’ needs. This resulted in the slogan, ‘Test to learn and play’.”

The medic also noted that Bahrain has done more than 9m RT-PCR tests for its population of 1.4m over the last two and a half years. This is besides mobile testing to trace high risk patients and 60,000 antibody tests done across the country.

“Manpower for contact tracing was one of the challenges faced by the medical team during the early pandemic,” he said.

“We had more than 600 people employed at the Public Health Directorate to help in contact tracing. They traced more than 800,000 contacts with the test positivity rate ranging between 17pc to 22pc.

“We still have this command control centre with tools for all the testing, tracing and tracking and the vaccination so that decisions can be made based on information.”




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