Why are Coronavirus Cases Still Increasing in Bahrain after One Year?
2021-03-18 - 8:16 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): On February 24, 2020, Bahrain announced the discovery of the first coronavirus case in the country amid a virus outbreak around the world. This was followed with precautionary procedures to limit the virus spread in the midst of panic that dominated most of the world.
The state of panic ended only a few months later, the competent health authorities set out some measures, mainly "wearing masks and social distancing", as well as particular measures that each country took fitting its situation, including closing institutions and setting a curfew.
In Bahrain, several people praised the professionalism of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus and dealing with the pandemic, despite the breaches they committed (mainly the case of Bahrainis stranded in Iran which was motivated by sectarianism in an unprecedented way). However, in general, the measures taken by the taskforce deserve to be praised.
Since the virus outbreak, experts said that the discovery of vaccines might need at least one year. Thus, most of the states started to prepare for the moment the vaccine is ready to carry out the largest vaccination campaign ever. Indeed, by the end of 2020, we started to hear about clinical trials (phase III) of American, British, Russian and Chinese vaccines.
The world breathed a sigh of relief after the announcement of vaccines (American, Chinese, British and Russian). Bahrain participated in clinical trials of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, and then the country's medical authorities announced the adoption of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, the American Pfizer Biontech, British AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and the Russian Sputnik.
What happened is the opposite of what was expected, instead of slowing down the spread of the virus, Bahrain began to record high numbers. In February and March 2021, we reached about 1,000 cases per day, and since February 18, death cases have been reported in Bahrain on a daily basis. The deaths peak reached 6 cases per day. Meanwhile, 68 death cases were registered from February 18 to March 11 (until the moment of writing the report) at a rate of 3 deaths per day.
The real question is what caused the infection and mortality index to increase suddenly, and in an unprecedented way, since the first infection was reported in the country. After researching, we tried to provide the reader with the reasons for this recent increase.
First: False Reassurance
Through a close reading to the countries that have started to vaccinate their citizens, we will find that these countries have suffered the same problem, due to the "false reassurance", since societal immunity cannot be achieved before vaccinating 75% of citizens. However, due to the fake reassurance, people tend to feel that society is now immune to the pandemic, and start avoiding health precautions, which may eventually lead to infection of those who have not been vaccinated, especially if we keep in mind that those who took the vaccine may be carriers of the virus (without being infected with the virus because they were vaccinated). This means that those who were vaccinated may carry the virus to those who are not, which means they will be infected with the virus.
Second: Spread of mutated virus and non-stop flights to/from the UAE
Although Bahrain does not have a specialized laboratory, there are indications that one or more mutated viruses have arrived in Bahrain. However, what characterizes the mutated Covid-19 virus is its speed in spreading among people, and in parallel the continued flights with the UAE, which a number of studies said was the cause of the transfer of the mutated virus to a number of countries, especially those which held New Year celebrations, which coincided with the decision to stop most preventive measures and the opening of all facilities for tourists and visitors. Regarding this particular matter, Bahrain should have followed the example of Saudi Arabia, which decided not to be courteous at the expense of public health, and ordered the suspension of flights with the UAE for weeks.
Third: Slow of Vaccination
We noted that the Ministry of Health has recently slowed giving vaccines to citizens. A number of people who registered to take the vaccine have complained about a delay in contacting them for weeks, while the Ministry of Health says that on a daily basis it gives vaccines to about 2,000 new people and that it gave 2,000 people the second dosage; which is a significant decrease from the beginning of the vaccination campaign that was exceeding 10,000 doses per day. So far, it is not known why the vaccination has stopped in most clinics, which has created pressure on the main centers administering the vaccine such as King Hamad University Hospital.
Fourth: Suspicions about Chinese Sinopharm Vaccine
So far, we have not been able to identify the professional reasons for the adoption of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in Bahrain, and all we have been able to reach in this regard is that due to Bahrain's participation in phase III trials at the request of the UAE (Bahrain preferred to respond to it for political reasons), and the vaccine was subsequently adopted for political rather than professional reasons.
Among the worrying things is the resignation of the chairman of the Chinese government-owned giant Sinopharm for "personal reasons", as well as the company's failure to publish the results of phase III clinical trials, as the American, British and Russian vaccines.
What is even more worrying is that the company has not applied for the approval of its vaccine to health authorities in the United States and the European Union with the aim of licensing it, which increases doubts about its effectiveness. Meanwhile, we see that Russia, for example, recently applied for its vaccine license to the European Union in another step that increases confidence about the effectiveness of its vaccine.
It seems that Bahrain's licensing of the Chinese vaccine was for political rather than professional reasons, until proven otherwise. We reserve some of the information we received on the vaccine and its efficacy.
Fifth: Conspiracy Theories
Although the authorities are not tolerant with rumor spreaders, we have noted that Bahrain has become a fertile ground for spreading conspiracy theories about the vaccine and coronavirus, especially from non-Bahraini personalities abroad, whose statements are posted on social media. We notice in this regard a significant failure of the health authorities which have not yet carried out a broad awareness campaign to stop the spread of such conspiracies. The State is blamed here because it has the potential to carry out extensive and influential awareness campaigns that eliminate such talks or reduce the effectiveness of their spread in society, particularly among elderly people who tend to believe these theories more and are considered to be at risk.
So far, it doesn't seem that we have approached the end of battle against Coronavirus, but there's a glimmer of hope expressed by US President Joe Biden (Thursday, March 11, 2021), when he addressed the Americans saying that their National Day celebrations on July 4 will be with family and friends, if the United States continues its massive vaccination campaign at the same pace until then.
However, we, in Bahrain, have the same hope that the health authorities will exert their utmost effort and continue to vaccinate citizens and residents at an accelerated pace in conjunction with a broad national campaign to instruct citizens about the importance of vaccination, which also aims at eliminating rumors and conspiracy theories which have gained an audience in the country.