Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): December 12, 2019 was the globally adopted date marking the discovery of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), which since has exhausted the world with its fast spreading and painful economic and humanitarian effects.
Reviewing the decisions and steps taken, one can say that the Government of Bahrain has taken important steps, by allocating four quarantine places in Muharraq nursing home, Kahlil Kanou Hospital, Jidhafs Maternity Hospital, Department for Treatment of Sickle Cell Patients and an additional section at Al-Salmaniya Medical Complex. A large medical quarantine unit has also been built in the Sitra area, in addition to dedicating 3 residential buildings for affected women and children.
The airport was equipped with a detector, while other detectors were put in a number of areas to allow the performance of quick examinations in different regions across the country. On the economic level, a number of important measures have been taken, including a 4.3 billion dinar ($11.4 billion) package to support the economy. However, contrary to what some statements and articles have claimed saying that the government will pay the salaries of 11,000 Bahrainis working in the private sector from its own pocket as part of the package, these salaries will be paid from the Unemployment Fund.
The market and its prices were monitored and the government tried to restrain a number of food-price manipulators. The government also provided tests for anyone suspected of contracting the virus. All these steps have gained popular praise, despite some unintended mistakes or delays here and there. But can the government and authorities in general be given a mark of success regarding this issue? Have serious mistakes been made that have affected citizens?
The issue of Bahraini nationals trapped in Iran, and the deaths of seven citizens there while waiting to be brought back home, has severely damaged government efforts, as well as the credibility of the authorities that are rumored to be changing for the better. Seven citizens have died and no statement offering condolences has been issued either by the government or by any senior official.
After vast popular criticism, the government agreed on a two-month evacuation plan; a plan which can be described as buying time. It is a cold plan that doesn't take into account the criticality of this issue and the suffering of over a thousand citizens trapped in Iran.
The government has also failed in dealing with the issue of political prisoners, as the situation of these prisoners will be catastrophic in the event that any of them contracts COVID-19. There are more than 3,000 political prisoners and others pending investigation over criminal cases, who are under extreme risk. Families of prisoners have strongly demanded the release of their loved ones amid this dangerous pandemic.
The government's harshness in dealing with the issue of prisoners was a bad sign in its fight against the virus. What does it mean when a government does not care about the lives of thousands of prisoners, especially political prisoners, whose only crime was asking for their political demands which are legitimate in all countries of the world?
Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim issued a statement on April 2 in which he warned against the catastrophe that would kill a number of prisoners. "If the release of political prisoners of conscience, who amount to thousands, in Bahrain is not deemed a religious, constitutional, national and humanitarian right and is neglected by the government of the country, then the inevitable reality that COVID-19 would enter prisons will cause a destructive Corona disaster, which will not be limited to its horrific effects that the world knows," he said.
The government's delay in resolving this problem and releasing prisoners means one thing: risking the lives of thousands of prisoners, and not paying attention to the most pressing humanitarian reasons at all.
In fact, the gesture of releasing a number of prisoners last March, under the Alternative Penalty Law, or pardoning a number of prisoners for humanitarian reasons, was a successful step, yet it was not enough in the face of the danger looming over the lives of prisoners.
The authorities, especially the Interior Ministry, have also failed when leaving loyalists spew their sectarian incitement. Various types of insult, disdain and sectarian contempt have been directed against the citizens stranded in Iran without the intervention of the Cybercrime Department. This was a green light for the launch of smear campaigns.
More broadly, it can be said that the government has succeeded in a number of measures, but has also clearly failed in other fields.