*** ----> 63-year-old man is Bahrain’s latest Covid-19 casualty | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

63-year-old man is Bahrain’s latest Covid-19 casualty

TDT | Manama

A Bahraini man has died from the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Ministry of Health announced yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths from the diseases in the Kingdom to six. The 63-year-old man, a registered active case of Coronavirus (COVID-19), had pre-existing medical conditions, the ministry said in a statement.

The deceased patient, who had returned from Iran, was in isolation and under extensive 24-hour care of a specialised medical team. The Health ministry further confirmed that, excluding three cases, all other active COVID-19 cases are stable. “All patients continue to receive treatment from a specialised medical team following guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the ministry statement said.

The Ministry of Health expressed its heartfelt condolences to the individual’s family at this difficult time. Bahrain has so far tested 57681 patients in the Kingdom with a total of 923 people testing positive to the virus. Conditions of 377 people, according to the ministry, are stable, with 3 people staying as critical.

Six people had lost their lives in the fight against the virus. Most of the people infected have been people returning from Iran, where the death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose to 4,232 yesterday with 122 lives lost in the past 24 hours.

In Iran, the total number of people diagnosed with the disease increased by 1,972 in the past 24 hours to a total of 68,192, a spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpur, said on state TV, adding that 3,969 people were in critical condition. It has recorded a total of 35,465 recoveries from the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

100 days of lockdown

With Thursday marking 100 days since the World Health Organisation (WHO) was first notified about what is now officially known as COVID-19, the agency’s chief said the virus has already infected more than 1.3 million people worldwide.  Estimated to be 10 times more lethal than influenza, COVID-19 has contained people in around 210 countries and territories in their home - maybe for months.

The virus has overwhelmed health systems, disrupted the economy and led to widespread social disruption in nations all over the planet. 

The data is frightening, confusing, and, yes, unprecedented in recent history. So far across the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), nearly 12,000 cases of COVID-19 infections have been recorded. In the Middle East, the virus came within a month of emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.  

However, understanding the mounting health threat, all GCC nations including Bahrain took drastic measures to combat the pandemic as cases started emerging in the form of travellers returning from Iran. 

Bahrain’s first case

Bahrain reported its first COVID-19 case on 21 February 2020, when a school bus driver who came to Bahrain from Iran via Dubai was tested positive to the virus.  Later on 24 February, a Bahraini woman arriving at the Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai was tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.  As of 28 February, there were 38 confirmed cases in Bahrain.

Reports indicate that Iranian travellers and pilgrims made up 76 fo the first 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom.  Sensing the impending disaster, the Kingdom moved swiftly. Bahrain suspended all flights from Dubai Airport and Sharjah Airport for 48 hours.

It also announced a travel ban on Iran for it failed to recognise the virus or contain it by failing to stamp the passports of GCC visitors transiting through the country.  Kingdom’s rapid and timely response even earned praise from the World Health Organisation.

“I would like to commend #Bahrain for its timely & effective preparedness & response efforts in managing #COVID19 outbreak,” wrote WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari on the @WHOEMRO Twitter handle.

‘War Room’ strategy

Following which, responding to UK’s handling of coronavirus, a frustrated John Ashton, who was Britain’s former faculty of Public Health Chief, drew comparisons between UK’s response to that of Bahrain led by HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister.

“What’s frustrating to me is that we’ve wasted three weeks,” Professor John Ashton said, while Bahrain set up a “war room” over a month ago and are carrying out “extensive testing”. “I want to know why we are not testing, why we haven’t tested those people coming back from Italy and who are now amongst us. We’ve got a recipe for a community spread here,” he said.

The former director told Boris Johnson that he should have been sharing “information fully with the public in a transparent way, which is what they’ve been doing in Bahrain.” Ashton, who reportedly is advising Bahrain’s team to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, also described Bahrain’s strategy as ‘very systematic, very proactive, and very thorough’. 

Making Bahrain’s COVID-19 fight effective was the methods it employed, including the effective tracking and tracing of cases. As of now, Bahrain is also one of the countries that have the lowest rate of contact transmission, where only six people in the first 100 cases were infected locally.

“I’m impressed that after I identified some of the weak links in the chain of control for them, they immediately responded to deal with them,” Prof Ashton told in a statement to the national. He told the publication: “The main challenge Bahrain faced was the number of religious tourists who travelled to Iran to visit holy sites.” Meanwhile, on the other end, Qatar reported the highest number of local contact transmissions in its first 100 cases in the GCC.

GCC tightens response

Saudi’s first case was also reported to be travellers returning from Iran and Iraq with most of the cases concentrated in the Qatif Province. As of yesterday, Saudi has over 3,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases with the Kingdom already imposing strong measures including indefinite suspension of international passenger flights and a bar on workplace attendance in both public and private sectors.

Most of the Gulf nations have shut down cinemas and other entertainment centres, with some even closing gyms and spas to contain the threat. Kuwait has taken the strictest measures in the GCC by largely locking down the country.

It has also halted all commercial flights until further notice from March 13. In Oman, reportedly 20 of the first 100 cases were travellers from Iran. Oman suspended all internal and international flights as of March 29, according to state TV. Qatar banned all inbound flights to Doha, with the exception of cargo and transit flights, starting from March 18.

Second Preparedness and Response Plan

However, in going forward, as WHO chief has said, “We must quarantine politicising this virus at national and global levels.”  

“Our singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the pandemic.” WHO is also about to launch its Second Preparedness and Response Plan in the coming days which will estimate the resources needed to implement national and international strategies during the next phase of the response.

It is built on five key objectives, namely mobilising all sectors and communities, controlling sporadic cases and clusters and preventing community transmission, suppressing community transmission where it occurs, reducing mortality through appropriate care, and developing safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics.