The Bahrain example in fighting COVID-19: When people, state help each other with social responsibility, safety

Reporter Rasha Al Ebrahim conducting an interview

Reporter Rasha Al Ebrahim conducting an interview

By Habib Toumi
MANAMA: Bahrain, one of the smallest and most liberal countries in the Middle East, has built its plans and actions in the fight against coronavirus on the value of trust between the people and the multi-ministry national taskforce and health professionals. The result has been so far positive and Bahrain can serve as an example for other countries.

When it became clear that the mysterious virus was inexorably spreading outside China and surfacing in its neighbors and threatening far-away countries, Bahrain, at the other end of the Asian continent, set up a national taskforce to fight the infectious disease if it hits home.

The multi-ministry taskforce formed a “war room” and marshalled the country’s resources, closely monitored coronavirus-related developments everywhere and made decisions.

For the island country, there was no room for complacency. With no case reported in Bahrain yet, procedures for quarantine, isolation and treatment were activated and a ban on visitors from at-risk countries was imposed to avoid importing the disease.

In a massive awareness campaign, the health ministry urged Bahrainis and foreigners living in the country to engage in a communal movement and help prevent the spread of infections by increasing their hygiene habits, adopting sanitization as a regular way of life, wearing facemasks in public and refraining from close physical interactions such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing.

Religious leaders with their great influence on the Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews and other groups in the country were urged to encourage their communities to adhere by the precautionary measures.

Awareness messages were beamed on TV, broadcast on radio, printed in newspapers and posted on media platforms in several languages.

When the first case was registered February 24, kindergartens, schools and colleges were shut, religious prayers and sports competitions suspended, small retail shops, salons and gyms closed. Public employees were encouraged to work from home whenever possible. Vibrant Bahrain was about to change drastically, but the taskforce explained the reasons calmly and openly and people rose up to their social responsibility.

The state helped ease the challenging situation by announcing a massive economic stimulus package, equivalent to 29.6% of the country’s annual GDP.

Bahrain also leveraged technology to introduce a tracing application and a geo-fencing devise to help ensure affected individuals remain in their designated isolation location until cleared and to quickly trace new COVID-19 cases.

Interestingly, in Bahrain, they were not seen as an issue of personal freedom or privacy, but rather as temporary solutions crucially needed to deal with a pandemic spreading in an open public space. People, in line with local and Asian traditions, were willing to limit their personal freedoms if that serves the interests of the nation as a whole.

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