The strategy behind Bahrain’s COVID-19 success

The strategy behind Bahrain’s COVID-19 success
Dr. Waleed Al-Manea is Bahrain’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Health. (File/Bahrain News Agency)
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Updated 01 July 2021

The strategy behind Bahrain’s COVID-19 success

The strategy behind Bahrain’s COVID-19 success
  • Dr Waleed Al-Manea tells Arab News how his country has dealt with COVID-19
  • Despite a world-beating testing regime, Bahrain remains on the UK’s “red list” for travel 

LONDON: The Kingdom of Bahrain, like the rest of the world, has been convulsed by a year of lockdowns, uncertainty, and painful — but necessary — sacrifices made by and on behalf of its people. 
But now, more than 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China and engulfed nearly every country on the planet, the small Gulf state appears to have turned the tide against the virus.
Bahrain was the first country in the world to approve the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and begin rolling it out, and is currently behind only the UAE and Malta in terms of vaccine doses administered per capita. While more than 1,300 people have died in Bahrain from COVID-19, in real terms, per person, that number is far below much of the rest of the world.
Dr. Waleed Al-Manea, Bahrain’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, told Arab News that he attributes this relative success to one clear strategy that the government has pursued throughout the pandemic: transparency.
“Since the start, we have adopted a strategy of transparency — that’s been very important to us,” he said. “With that transparency, we promised ourselves that we would work with facts rather than with deception. Whenever we have made a decision, it has been informed by facts.”
Al-Manea, who also plays a role in Bahrain’s dedicated COVID-19 taskforce, cited the country’s rigorous testing regime — around 5 million PCR tests have been administered in the country of just 1.5 million inhabitants — as an example of how that transparency has, at times, given the appearance that the situation in the kingdom was worse than it really was.
“Throughout the pandemic, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Bahrain has appeared higher per population than (many) other countries — since the start, we’ve recorded more than 250,000 cases,” he said, adding that because Bahrain prioritized widespread testing from the start of the pandemic, cases had appeared to be higher than expected.
“We wanted to trace all the cases, even the ones without symptoms. We did not just test the symptomatic people that arrive in hospitals … This is why we have this huge number (of cases) compared to other countries: because we wanted to test as many people as we could in order to save lives,” he explained.
The doctor praised the public’s patience throughout the pandemic, stressing the difficult experiences of Ramadan and Eid holidays that Bahrain’s people have gone through in states of semi-lockdown.
Al-Manea said the country’s transparent approach throughout the early days of the pandemic has paid dividends as Bahrain ramps up its vaccine drive, and it has meant that the country is fully prepared to handle any challenges — particularly relevant, he added, as the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus appears to be gaining dominance in much of the world.
“We have been communicating with the public very closely on a daily basis throughout the pandemic, and because of that they have this trust in us.
“Because of that transparency, they trust in our management, in the vaccinations, and they trust that we are planning ahead effectively for them. The vaccine rollout was done very smoothly because of this,” the undersecretary explained.
The country’s strategy certainly seems to be paying off. On Wednesday, Bahrain recorded just 184 new cases of the virus across the country — a far cry from the UK’s 20,831, even taking into account the significant difference in population between the two nations.
But despite the escalating Delta-variant crisis in the UK, and much of the West, and the success that Bahrain has achieved, the kingdom remains on the UK’s “red list,” preventing nearly all direct travel between the two long-time friends and allies.
Al-Manea said he respects that each country must make its own “totally independent decision” over its borders, but he added: “I am very confident in what Bahrain is doing … I’m confident that Bahrain is very safe.”


Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M
Updated 58 min 33 sec ago

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M
  • The audit is a key requirement for Lebanon to secure foreign aid

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister Youssef Khalil on Friday signed a new contract with restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out a forensic audit at the country’s central bank, the ministry said in a statement.
A&M will give an initial report to the ministry within 12 weeks of its team starting work, the ministry said.
Lebanon is suffering one of the deepest economic depressions in modern history. Three-quarters of its population is now classified as poor by the United Nations and the local currency has lost 90 percent of its value in the past two years.
The plan for an audit, a key requirement for Lebanon to secure foreign aid amid its financial meltdown, hit a roadblock in November when A&M withdrew, saying it had not received the information it needed from the central bank.
Parliament then agreed in December to lift banking secrecy for one year, amid much back-and-forth between Lebanese officials including the ministry and the central bank over whether certain information could be disclosed.
The finance ministry said in April the central bank had agreed to hand over some documents.
Khalil, a former top central bank official, was appointed finance minister as part of a new cabinet cobbled together by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun after a year of political deadlock that has compounded the country’s economic meltdown.
Mikati’s cabinet has said it was committed to a resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund, pre-conditions for which include a restructuring of the banking sector and public debt.
Last year’s IMF talks were derailed when politicians and bankers disputed the scale of financial losses mapped out in a financial recovery plan drawn up by the then government.


Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials
Updated 17 September 2021

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

LONDON: Police in Yemen's province of Marib arrested a group of Houthi militia planning to bomb public places with the aim to assassinate government military officials, state news agency Saba reported on Thursday.
The commander of Special Forces in Marib Brig. Gen. Saleem Al-Sayyaghi told Saba that a cache of explosives and maps of bomb sites were seized in possession of the Houthi members.
Initial investigations, he said, revealed that those arrested “steered by the Iran-backed Houthi militia” and were tasked with bombing civilian crowds and military leaders.

Sayyaghi claimed that the plot comes as the militia failed to take Marib in the battlefield despite sending fighters towards the army positions over the past months.  


Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
Updated 17 September 2021

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
  • The head of Iran’s prison system admitted that videos purportedly obtained by a self-described hacker group that show abuses at the Islamic Republic’s notorious Evin prison are real

NICOSIA: Amnesty International has condemned the “climate of impunity” that prevails in Iran over deaths in custody despite reports of more than 70 such cases over the past decade.
“Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials,” said the London-based rights group.
The latest documented case involved a 31-year-old whose death was reported to his family by intelligence ministry officials in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province on September 8, Amnesty said in a statement.
“Reports of the death of Yaser Mangouri in suspicious circumstances further exposes how the prevailing climate of impunity further emboldens security forces to violate prisoners’ right to life without any fear of consequence or accountability,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
The group’s report follows an admission by Iran’s prisons chief last month that “unacceptable behavior” had taken place at a notorious Tehran prison after videos published abroad appeared to show violence against detainees.
The footage of prison guards beating and mistreating detainees was reportedly obtained by hackers who accessed surveillance cameras at Evin prison.
Amnesty International said the leaked video footage “offered disturbing evidence of beatings, sexual harassment, and other ill-treatment of prisoners by prison officials.”
It said that in 46 of the 72 deaths in custody, informed sources said they had resulted from “physical torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of intelligence and security agents or prison officials.”
Another 15 deaths were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas by prison guards to suppress protests over Covid-19 safety fears, said Amnesty.
For the remaining 11 cases, the deaths occurred in suspicious circumstances, but no further details about potential causes were available, it added.
“Iranian authorities typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, drug overdose or illness in a rushed manner and without conducting any independent and transparent investigations,” the watchdog said.
In July, Amnesty and nine other rights groups urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a mechanism to collect, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious crimes committed in the Islamic republic.
Iran regularly defends itself against reports by the United Nations or international rights groups criticizing its treatment of prison inmates.


Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
Updated 17 September 2021

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
  • The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease
  • The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years

DUBAI: Over 50 percent of residents in the UAE have been affected by heart disease, according to a study of more than 1,000 people.

The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease, Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

The report further said heart disease was the main cause of death in the country, with symptoms showing a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed countries.

“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community. Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned,” Dr Ronney Shantouf, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said.

The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years, while 30 percent said they had never done so.

“It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent heart disease,” Shantouf said.

The study has further shown that 15 percent of respondents did not have any risk factors of heart disease.

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Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’
Updated 16 September 2021

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

VIENNA: Iran on Thursday dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog’s work as “unprofessional” and “unfair” shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran.
The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.
“The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
Gharibabadi was referring to a passage in an IAEA report last week that said the lack of progress was seriously affecting the IAEA’s ability to determine that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran says it is.
Failure to resolve the issue complicates efforts to restart talks aimed at bringing the US and Iran fully back into the fold of the 2015 nuclear deal, since Washington and its allies continue to pressure Iran to give the IAEA answers.