The Middle East nation of Bahrain has reported that an anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has worked at least in “alleviating the symptoms” of the COVID-19 virus while reducing complications, reported Lt. Gen Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, head of Bahrain’s coronavirus task force that is part of the Ministry of Health.
The anti-malarial drug is typically used for lupus and acute chronic rheumatoid arthritis and in fact when U.S. President Donald Trump highlighted the potential benefits of the drug there was literally a run on the drug in America putting lupus patients at risk for shortages.
The Bahrain Experience
Now Bahrain’s state-run news agency reports investigators in this Middle East Kingdom-based nation are some of the first to use the decades-old malaria drug to treat COVID-19 patients.
By February 26, 2020 once COVID-19 was detected in the country, a National Taskforce to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) was mobilized to start treating patients with the drug. They based their decision based on some evidence observed and gleaned from experiences in South Korean and China. So Bahrain officials are on record that hydroxychloroquine “proved to be very effective in alleviating virus-related symptoms, pneumonia, pain and fever” as declared by Lt. Gen Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa.
More on Bahrain
A truly interesting place that in many ways establishes precedent for oil-rich Persian Gulf Kingdoms to follow, they are the first Gulf Island nation to develop a “post-oil economy,” which reveals the foresight and vision of some smart leaders.
Where is it?
A small Persian Gulf island nation, situated on the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, comprises a small archipelago made up of 33 natural islands and an additional 51 artificial islands all centered around Bahrain Island making up 83 percent of the nation’s landmass. With a population of around 1.2 million, it is one of the smallest nations in Asia.
Where did it come from?
Home to various ancient and great Sumerian civilizations such as the Dilmun thousands of years ago, much later local populations had bouts with European colonization via the Portuguese between 1521 to 1602. Attempts were made for Persian (modern day Iran) control, and thereafter, indigenous Arabic clans and familial networks—the historical ancestry to royal lineage—took back control. It became a protectorate of the United Kingdom in the late 1800s and declared its independence in 1971 which the U.S. immediately recognized. It has since been ruled by a royal lineage known as the House of Khalifa .
Once an emirate like some of the other Persian Gulf countries, it was declared an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002. Although considered progressive on many accounts, the country does have internal challenges as certain ethnic or religious groups report discriminatory treatment from the government (e.g. Shia religious population reports problems). Various human rights groups have been critical particularly since the revolts during the Arab Spring of 2011.
On the other hand, there is discrimination in some form everywhere (including Western democracies included) and all countries must strive to be as fair and balanced as possible. As compared to some other areas in the Middle East region, Bahrain is intent on establishing itself as a model for a post-oil and post emirate society.
A Relatively Prosperous Place
With a high Human Development index and recognition by the World Bank as a high-income place, it participates in the United Nations and other groups such as the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council. The country ranks 33rd in wealthiest as measured by per capital GDP according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) index. Note, the U.S. is 19th and Norway is 11th for comparison.
COVID-19 Timeline in Bahrain
Wikipedia highlights a timeline for Bahrain, which we haven’t verified is 100% accurate.
Bahrain National Taskforce to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing at Convention Center
The Bahrain National Taskforce to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been holding press conferences to update the world. They often meet at the Crown Prince Center for Training and Medical Research at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital highlighting updates and progress in the battle against the global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.
According to one source, by March 23, the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus designated the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Center as the main testing site for COVID-19 patients. It is divided into three separate halls, which are based on COVID-19 exposure and also includes a rapid treatment area and a pharmacy. The center includes at least 500 beds and 1,200 seats for patients.
Who is Lt. Gen Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa?
Heading the coronavirus taskforce is Lt. Gen Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa who is charged with helping this Kingdom nation battle the dangerous pathogen. He heads the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus and maintains the authority to issue notices on government rules, policies and actions to combat SARS-CoV-2. He has been on the record of the need for a comprehensive approach to contain the virus and prevent its spreading. He has noted recently that Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and the First Deputy Prime Minister continues to drive overall leadership in their quest to limit and minimize the impact of COVID-19. Shaikh Mohamed noted that they currently have 1,667 beds and their total capacity stands at 2,504 beds. The Ministry of Health website can be found here.
Call to Action: Interested in learning more about the Bahrain experience with the COVID-19 clinical trial? See the Ministry of Health website.