The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) highlights measures and developments

The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) highlights measures and developments


The National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) today held a press conference at the Crown Prince Centre for Training and Medical Research at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital, to highlight COVID-19 related measures established within the Kingdom and to provide an update on mitigation efforts.
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, HE Dr. Shaikha Rana bint Isa Al Khalifa, reiterated the Ministry’s commitment to supporting national efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, as well as its continued collaboration with the Kingdom’s foreign diplomatic missions to organise the safe return of Bahraini citizens from abroad through the International COVID-19 Repatriation Programme (ICRP).
Emphasising this point, HE Dr. Rana highlighted how the Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the National Taskforce to Combat COVID-19, has successfully organised the repatriation of 3,800 Bahraini citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran. HE Dr. Rana added that the safe return of citizens will continue in line with the Kingdom’s established timeline, which ends in mid-May.
Dr. Shaikha Rana went on to detail the extensive measures taken by the Ministry to contact Bahraini citizens abroad. These include increasing call center capacity to ensure calls are answered at all hours of the day, updating and registering citizens’ data, and ensuring the smooth and safe return of citizens by organising travel and accommodation.  
Dr. Shaikh Rana later highlighted the Ministry’s efforts to spread domestic awareness by contacting foreign embassies in Bahrain and notifying them of the precautionary steps and measures taken by the government to safeguard citizens and residents. The Ministry has also translated all COVID-19 precautionary guidelines and measures into a number of languages, including English, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, and Bengali.  
Dr. Shaikha Rana further emphasised the Ministry’s continued coordination with relevant authorities to facilitate the delivery of medicines and food products from various countries, to ensure supplies within the Kingdom remain abundant.
The Chief Executive of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), HE Ausamah bin Abdullah Al Absi, highlighted that in April, in line with the directives of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, the LMRA is supporting the private sector by suspended monthly work fees, as well as fees for issuing and renewing work permits for a period of three months.
HE Al Absi noted that the LMRA has further provided expatriate workers holding various work permits, such as the flexible work permit, the employer work permit (employment category), enrolled (family of an expatriate worker), and domestic workers, a grace period from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, to correct their permit status.
HE Al Absi added that between 01 April and 26 April, a total of 13284 permit statuses have been corrected, leading to a decrease in the number of incorrectly registered or undocumented workers within the Kingdom.
HE Al Absi noted that, as of 26 April, there have been 1909 registered COVID-19 cases among expatriate workers, of which 95.5% work for business employers, with only 1.7% on flexible work permits from the registered expatriate workers. The rest of cases are amongst expatriates with visit visas, enrolled visas, or house workers. 89% of the 1909 registered COVID-19 cases are among expatriate workers with legal permits, and 9% among workers with non-compliant permits, whilst 2% are amongst expatriates with visitor visas.
HE Al Absi emphasised that the LMRA has coordinated with businesses owners to provide additional housing for their expatriate workers to self-isolate in.
Currently, business owners have provided 59% of the total buildings being used for self-isolation, accommodating 7046 workers. Meals, medication and care continue to be provided, under the supervision of the LMRA.
On this note, HE Al Absi added that 42% of the buildings designated for self-isolation by expatriate workers are self-provided accommodation. These buildings are currently accommodating 2739 workers, with the Kingdom providing these individuals with food and medication. HE Al Absi noted that the Kingdom has provided 23,500 meals to expatriate workers over the past 5 days and that, since February, the LMRA has circulated 1,719,206 awareness brochures amongst expatriate workers, and 577,000 expatriate workers have visited the LMRA Facebook awareness page.
HE Al Absi highlighted that, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health, a comprehensive contact tracing plan has been developed to flag active cases and their contacts amongst expatriate workers, while clarifying whether their residences are owned by an employer or are self-provided shared accommodation. Meals are regularly provided to workers living in self-provided shared accommodation, and the relevant authorities continue to regularly visit these residences to log necessary public health information. The LMRA is also conducting outreach to businesses in order to record information on the expatriate workers, and to facilitate testing appointments for contacts of active cases.
Later, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Walid Al-Manea, began by reiterating the Ministry of Health’s continued commitment to safeguarding the community. In this regard, Dr. Al-Manea noted that the benchmark used to identify how adequately a country is testing is determined by measuring testing per capita. The Undersecretary added that the WHO’s benchmark is to record at least 10 negative cases for every positive confirmed case, adding that if the percentage is lower than 9% this reflects adequate testing efforts by a country. Dr Al-Manea confirmed Bahrain has been able to reach a rate of 2%, which reflects the Kingdom’s tireless efforts to accurately track and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Al-Manea went on to highlight that the Ministry of Health has announced the referral of citizens from quarantine centers to home self-isolation, in accordance to regulations stipulated by the Minister of Health. Dr. Al-Manea added that the citizens transferred to home self-isolation are returnees from abroad, noting that contacts of active cases are also being referred to home self-isolation for a period of two weeks.
In addition to this, patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are obliged to self-isolate at home for another period of 4 weeks and are tested regularly to ensure they have completely recovered from the virus.
On this note, Dr. Al-Manea underscored the importance of following the guidelines that are given to patients when signing the self-isolation home declaration form, in order to ensure their own health and safety and that of the community.
Dr. Al-Manea then went on to highlight the Kingdom’s current testing, quarantine, isolation and treatment capacity, as follows:

-           Public isolation and treatment centre capacity is 2473 beds, of which 1506 are occupied
-           Private isolation and treatment centre capacity is 136 beds, of which 50 are occupied
-           Public quarantine centre capacity stands at 1673 beds, of which 902 are occupied
-           Private quarantine centre capacity stands at 801 beds, of which 20 are occupied
Dr. Al-Manea concluded by reiterating the importance of following all health and social distancing guidelines during the holy month of Ramadhan to ensure the safety of all.  
For his part, the Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus, Lt. Col. Manaf Al Qahtani, highlighted that the Bahraini community’s adherence to health guidelines has contributed to the Kingdom’s effective response to combating the virus. Dr. Al Qahtani commended the efforts of the Kingdom so far, especially when comparing its response to other countries after the registration of the first 100 active cases. Other countries have shown a clear escalation in the number of active cases, whereas Bahrain is moving towards flattening the curve of the virus. Dr. Al Qahtani further stressed the importance and need to continue to adhere to government guidelines in order to overcome COVID-19.
On discussing the outcomes of the international COVID-19 webinar, Dr. Al Qahtani highlighted the Kingdom’s continued efforts to strengthen regional and international cooperation and enhance ongoing efforts to address the implications of COVID-19 through the exchange of experiences and best practices between countries. The webinar also provided an opportunity to review the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the virus, as well as discuss the experiences of other countries with more than 600 participants and health experts from around the world.
The Consultant of Infectious and Internal Diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex, Dr. Jameela Al Salman, then reviewed the health status of active COVID-19 cases, confirming 1556 active cases in the Kingdom. Of these active cases, 2 are critical, 16.8% are experiencing symptoms, and only 1.2% require treatment and medication. Dr Al Salman confirmed 1246 patients have fully recovered and have been discharged from their designated isolation and treatment centres.
On discussing Ramadan fasting amongst active COVID-19 patients, Dr. Al Salman noted the insufficiency of data and studies on fasting and its implications in regards to COVID-19. Dr. Al Salman noted that healthy patients are able to fast, however, active COVID-19 patients who would like to fast would need to consult with their doctors before doing so. The WHO has advised that active COVID-19 patients should eat a healthy diet, and drink adequate amounts of water during iftar and suhoor.
Dr. Al Salman concluded by highlighting the importance of following all health and social distancing guidelines during the holy month of Ramadan, and to continue washing hands regularly using water and soap, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, frequently disinfecting surfaces and objects that are used regularly, covering the mouth when coughing, immediately disposing of used napkins and tissues, and avoiding direct contact with anyone with a fever or a cough.
Dr. Al Salman further noted that individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, should contact the 444 hotline number and follow the guidelines provided, adding that wearing a mask is pivotal to ensuring citizens and residents remain safeguarded from the virus. 


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