High COVID-19 recovery rates put GCC region in the limelight

High COVID-19 recovery rates put GCC region in the limelight
Relatively high rates of recovery from COVID-19 infection have put the GCC bloc in the limelight even though their efforts to keep new cases under control have produced mixed results so far. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 14 September 2020

High COVID-19 recovery rates put GCC region in the limelight

High COVID-19 recovery rates put GCC region in the limelight
  • Study offers clues to why recovery rates in the bloc are higher than the global average
  • Low death rate seen as advantageous as it accelerates return of trust among the population

DUBAI: Relatively high rates of recovery from COVID-19 infection have put the GCC bloc in the limelight even though their efforts to keep new cases under control have produced mixed results so far.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region crossed 1,676,497 on Sept. 8, according to Worldometers data collated by the journal MEED. Of the total, the six member states of the GCC accounted for 44.7 percent while Iran made up another 23.2 percent.

However, according to recently published research findings, the GCC bloc’s recovery rates are significantly higher than the global average. An average of 81.4 percent of patients had recovered in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman compared with the global figure of 57 percent.

Each GCC member country also scored well above the global average individually. An average of 81.4 percent of patients had recovered in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman compared with the global figure of 57 percent.

Each GCC member country scored well above the global average: Bahrain at 89.2 percent, the UAE (86.8 percent), and Oman (66.7 percent). 

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said 93 percent of all COVID-19 patients in the Kingdom had recovered from the disease; of a 325,651 recorded cases, the number of recoveries stood at 302,870. 

The other GCC findings were released by CoronaTracker.com, a  project of more than 460 data scientists, medics and developers monitoring and analyzing global trends related to the pandemic.

It sources data from a range of international media and public agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The recovery rate represents the percentage of a country’s population confirmed to have been infected by the virus who have made a full recovery. Today, the metric is considered vital for measuring the effectiveness of countries’ responses to the pandemic.

In Bahrain, the kingdom’s strong recovery rates have been publicized by the National Taskforce for Combating Coronavirus to highlight measures taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.




Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health, undergoing a clinical trial for the third phase of the inactive vaccine for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi. (WAM/AFP/File Photo)

“International praise for our work from the WHO is evidence that we have taken the right approach to tackle the virus,” said Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al-Manea, undersecretary at the Bahraini Ministry of Health and a member of the taskforce at the time.

“This should be an incentive to remain resilient as national containment efforts continue. Bahrain’s recovery rate currently stands at 83.85 percent with a 0.32 percent death rate — isolation center capacity stands at 34 percent, with 2,839 out of 8,357 beds occupied, and 1,814 asymptomatic cases are under optional home self-isolation after meeting the set criteria.”

The GCC has previously received praise from the WHO for its early, rapid and robust response to the outbreak. Speed played a major role in preventing the spread of the infection and ensuring health care services were not overwhelmed. This resulted in the region’s strong recovery rates.

“(This is due to) economically developed societies that had made the population aware that they take the maximum precautions, availability of self-hygiene kits with suitable prices (that match people’s) personal income, and modern hospitals that provided updated machines and technologies under insurance coverage for most individuals,” said Dr. Rasha Alani, from Medcare Medical Center in Dubai’s Al-Khawaneej.

INNUMBERS

COVID-19

* 28,584,158 cases worldwide (Sept. 13)

* 916,955 Total deaths from virus

“So people had the chance to protect themselves and were treated with high-quality services in this area rather than in other places that had so many obstacles.”

She said that awareness campaigns and advertisements by health authorities had also helped.

“Gulf countries had those results as they have a young society, in other words, they had a less geriatric population,” she told Arab News. “All the studies concerned reflect the healthy and high hygiene habits among citizens and expats.”

Bahrain was one of the first countries to shut down all educational institutions, from kindergartens to universities, and ground flights until quarantine facilities were in place.

Saudi Arabia banned foreign pilgrimage to Makkah before it registered its first infection, and every GCC member had shut down schools and universities by mid-March, with non-essential businesses to follow. By the end of March, almost every member country had suspended international passenger flights.




A fruit vendor wearing a face mask waves for the camera as he waits for clients at a market in Kuwait City, on July 20, 2020 amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP/File Photo)

“The extent to which people are willing to buy goods and services that require physical contact depends on perceptions of the health risks associated with COVID-19,” said Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli, director of research at the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies.

“In this regard, a low death rate is advantageous, as it accelerates the return of trust among the population. Gulf countries have shown high recovery rates for those affected by COVID-19, which is partially a reflection of effective public health policies and, in the long term, this will contribute to a faster recovery.”

Technological innovation and digital connectivity were found to have played an equally crucial role. In the UAE, police deployed smart helmets capable of scanning temperatures of hundreds of people every minute, while Bahrain used multilingual robots on isolation wards to check body temperatures, administer medicine, serve meals and sterilize treatment rooms with ultraviolet light.

Bahrain and the UAE were found to lead much of the world in testing rates, ranking fifth and sixth, respectively, for rate of tests per million people.

“As governments around the world continue to grapple with how to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, speed of response and immediate action played a major role in preventing the spread of infection and ensuring health care services were not overwhelmed,” said Dr. Mohaymen Abdelghany, CEO of Al-Zahra Hospital in Dubai.

“This resulted in the region’s strong recovery rates. The government also took various serious measures of social distancing and mobilization at a very early stage, such as movement permits and sanitization programs, which play a pivotal role.”




A customer has a haircut at a barbershop in Kuwait City on August 18, 2020, as businesses such as barbershops, beauty salons, gyms and spas, reopen after a 5-month shutdown due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). (AFP/File Photo)

He cited the example of the UAE’s response and, in particular, Dubai, which established the COVID-19 Command and Control Center with Al-Zahra Hospital Dubai as an integral member.

“It did not function as a single unit but as a collaboration among several hospitals, agencies, departments, and individual volunteers, igniting a cohesive approach to conquer the pandemic (and) uniting the public and private health care sectors,” Abdelghany told Arab News. “Multiple entities working together proved beneficial to easily facilitate patient movement and effective virus containment.”

Thanks to near real-time accurate data and updates on bed capacity from hospitals, patients could be transferred and assigned to hospitals, institutional isolation facilities or homes according to clinical nature, allowing Dubai to become a “great model” of public-private partnership, he said.




Emiratis, with protective masks and working socially distanced from each other, are pictured at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai on July 19, 2020, ahead of the expected launch of the "Hope" Mars probe from Japan. (AFP/File Photo)

“GCC countries have gone to extensive lengths to ensure their population has access to testing,” Abdelghany said.

“The UAE has become among the first countries in the world with populations over 1 million to hit a 50 percent testing rate for COVID-19. This milestone means that scientists in these nations can accurately analyze the spread of the coronavirus with a greater level of infection data per capita than anywhere else worldwide.”

He said that as the economy continues to open up, testing and contact tracing, along with isolation strategies adopted by the UAE, will allow for safer opening of schools, restaurants, hotels, tourism and other industries.

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
Updated 20 min 44 sec ago

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
  • The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather
  • Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”

JERUSALEM: Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.
The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs.”
There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.
Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City “hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them toward less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.
Police said officers attempted to “distinguish between them and those who finished prayers” and were not involved in the events.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalized.
Israeli police said 20 officers were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous,” a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.
On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organized a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.
Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.
The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned “the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City.”
A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the “settler” attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.
Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.
Police reported “a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment.”
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.
Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhoods “to end this pointless violence.”
More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.


Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
Updated 23 April 2021

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
  • Envoy Tor Wennesland said the road will not be easy, and called on all sides to protect voting rights
  • Central Elections Commission praised for “professionalism and integrity” and its efforts to ensure safe voting during pandemic.

NEW YORK: The successful staging of credible Palestinian elections on May 22 is a crucial step toward unity and guaranteeing the legitimacy of national institutions, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday.
Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told council members that the elections, along with Israeli efforts to form a coalition government, will have a “significant implication for the prospects for advancing peace in the months ahead,” and called on the international community to provide support.
“Expectations for the holding of elections in Palestine are high and come after a long wait of almost 15 years … a growing number of young people are expected to participate in shaping their political future, and have the opportunity to vote for the first time,” Wennesland said.
“These elections should also pave the way to uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate national authority, which would be an important step toward reconciliation and could advance Middle East peace.”
He praised the Palestinian Central Elections Commission for its “professionalism and integrity, enhancing trust in the electoral process,” singling out in particular the committee’s efforts to create a safe voting environment during the pandemic.
He also underscored the importance of the role of election observers in ensuring that the results of “credible and transparent” elections are respected.
“All sides must work toward protecting the right of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, to participate in credible and inclusive Palestinian elections, as well as to stand for election free from intimidation,” said Wennesland.
He urged all those involved in the process “to refrain from any arrest, detention or interrogation based on freedom of opinion, expression or association.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose “a formidable threat” throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, further exacerbating an already dire social and economic situation, Wennesland said as he called for vaccination efforts to be stepped up and for more vaccine doses to be made available.
The Biden administration this month announced its plans for resuming US funding for the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), which was halted in August 2018 by President Donald Trump. Wennesland welcomed the move by Washington and called on all UN members to recommit to supporting the agency, whose “services are not only a lifeline for millions of Palestine refugees but are also critical for stability throughout the region.”
The envoy repeated his call for Israel to halt the demolition and seizure of Palestinian properties and to allow the Palestinian people “to develop their communities.”
Denouncing the “daily violence” that has resulted in more arrests, injuries and deaths, Wennesland called on all sides “to de-escalate tensions and maintain calm.”
He added: “I underscore that all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice. I reiterate that Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
“Particular care should be taken to protect children from any form of violence. In addition, the indiscriminate launching of rockets toward Israeli population centers violates international law and must stop immediately.”


Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport
Updated 23 April 2021

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

BAGHDAD: At least three rockets hit near Baghdad international airport late Thursday, the Iraqi military said.
A total of eight missiles were fired and three landed near the airport complex, the statement said. It did not detail whether the attack caused casualties.
The rockets struck areas known to contain Iraqi security forces. One hit close to a central prison, the second near an academy of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, and a third near the headquarters of the Rapid Response regiment.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. US officials have previously blamed Iran-backed militia groups.
It is the latest in a string of rocket attacks that have primarily targeted American installations in Iraq in recent weeks. On Sunday, multiple rockets hit an Iraqi air base just north of Baghdad, wounding two Iraqi security personnel.
Last month, a base in western Iraq housing US-led coalition troops and contractors was hit by 10 rockets. One contractor was killed.
Calls from mainly Shiite leaders have grown to oust US troops from Iraq after a US-directed drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad in January 2020.
Strategic talks between the US and Iraq have focused on the future of US troop presence in the country.


Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general
Updated 23 April 2021

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general
  • Israeli media also described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel
  • Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, is some 300 km south of Damascus

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM: A senior US general said on Thursday that he believed a Syrian missile exploding in Israel was not intentional, but rather showed a lack of Syrian air defense capability.

“I think it reflects actually incompetence in Syrian air defense ... I do not believe it was an intentional attack,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Earlier in the day, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile landed in southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top secret nuclear reactor. In response, it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

Israeli media later described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly launched air strikes at Syria, including at military targets linked to foes Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Such strikes routinely draw Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Thursday’s exchange was unusual because the Syrian projectile landed deep inside Israel.

A road sign shows the way to Dimona nuclear power plant in Israel's Negev desert. (AFP / Ahmad Gharabali)

Syria’s state news agency SANA said the exchange began with an Israeli air strike on Dumeir, a suburb of the capital of Damascus. Dumeir is believed to house Syrian army installations and batteries as well as bases and weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed militias. SANA said four soldiers were wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group based in Britain that tracks Syria’s civil war, said the Israeli strikes hit an air defense base belonging to the Syrian military and destroyed air defense batteries in the area. It said the Syrian military fired surface-to-air missiles in response.

The Israeli military described the projectile that landed near the nuclear site as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles.

Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, is some 300 km south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.