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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - More than 1,200 Bahraini nationals stranded overseas due to flight cancellations brought in to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus have been flown home, the government said on Tuesday.
Undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry Sheikha Rana Al Khalifa said the National Taskforce for Combating Covid-19 had overseen the operation to repatriate the stranded Bahrainis.
She said that they returned people stuck in China first and then nationals in Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Jordan and other GCC nations after embassies around the world tracked down nationals and organised the operation.
As well as returning nationals, Sheikha Rana highlighted how the Jafferi Endowments Directorate had helped find new accommodation for 140 Bahrainis kicked out of their hotel in the Iranian city of Mashhad.
The kingdom’s task force is overseen by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and was established to co-ordinate the nationwide response. Bahrain has earned praise from the World Health Organisation and international experts for its swift tracking and tracing measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the country.
Coronavirus around the Middle East
There are currently 756 confirmed cases, 458 recoveries and four deaths.
Although the undersecretary did not mention the issue, Bahrain in March told Qatar to stop meddling in the repatriation process after Doha flew a number of Bahrainis to Qatar from Iran.
“Bahrain had arranged special flights directly from Mashhad airport to Bahrain airport in adherence with health and safety precautions,” King Hamad’s adviser and former foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, said on Twitter.
Due to the Gulf dispute, there are no flights directly from Doha to Manama and Qatari officials said that those Bahrainis that they had airlifted out of Iran would need to wait for their government to send a plane to bring them back.
Britain’s former director of public health, Prof John Ashton, has praised the kingdom’s response, saying “they’ve been very systematic, very proactive, very thorough”.
As well as the “war-room strategy” for directing the national effort, he also highlighted the treatment of patients.
“They have a very interesting treatment protocol, which is quite a complex mixture of treatments that they are using under the direction of the military doctor who’s running the war room,” he said.
Bahrain says it has had some success using an antimalarial drug touted by US President Donald Trump.
Several countries around the world are trialling hydroxychloroquine and although the results are not yet conclusive, it appears to be somewhat effective in certain cases. But experts have ruled it out as a “silver bullet” cure.
Dr Mohammed Al Khalifa, chairman of the national medical team addressing the coronavirus, said in March that they had had successes with “a number” of cases.
Updated: April 7, 2020 03:10 PM
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