Over the past couple of weeks Bahrain’s authorities have reported significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, with 1001 ongoing cases (as of 15 April), only three of which are described as critical. With 663 cases categorized as “recovered,” to date there have been 7 deaths. Only a week previously (8 April), there were only 349 reported ongoing cases.
This increase in the number of known cases has largely understood to be due to an intensive campaign of random daily checks, with the vast majority of new cases occurring within communities of foreign workers. In recognition that this demographic was most vulnerable – economically and medically – to the impact of the virus, there have already been a number of initiatives launched for providing free meals and additional support to foreign workers who require such support. Earlier on during the crisis, the King declared that coronavirus healthcare would be free to all those present in the Kingdom – including testing, quarantine and intensive care – foreign residents and citizens alike.
Also newly announced is the conversion of a large multi-storey car park of a military hospital into a 130-bed intensive care unit. This was at the Bahrain Defence Forces hospital in Riffa. According to senior officials, this new facility was established in seven days as a “precautionary step,” in order that medical services keep ahead of the spread of the disease.
A major challenge has been to ensure that the public abides by quarantine regulations. With the aim of preventing further spread of the disease, around 60 individuals have so far been investigated for violation of self-isolation procedures. Indeed, in recent days, two people were sentenced to three months of house arrest and electronic surveillance for such violations, including one individual who had fled their home, heading for the Airport. A businessman and lawyer were previously sentenced.
However, there have been efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus upon prisoners, with families of those in jail being granted “virtual visit”. Bahrain’s Ombudsman office and the National Instituion for Human Rights have also extended their public availability for addressing human rights issues, by being able to receive formal complaints online and via telephone. Meanwhile, Gulf Air has continued its work to repatriate Bahrainis stranded overseas as part of its evacuation plan.