Since September 2, the Kingdom of Bahrain has seen a considerable increase in the number of people affected by Covid-19. Our Observer attributes this to the lack of social distancing when thousands gathered for the religious festival of Ashura at the end of August. People are scrambling to access mobile testing centres amid a surge in cases in the small Gulf kingdom.

Between September 2 and 16, the number of cases reported per day increased from around 350 to more than 800. As of September 16, Bahrain had 6824 positive cases, according to the Ministry of Health.

This graph of the number of people infected with Covid-19 in Bahrain since the beginning of the epidemic clearly shows a sudden increase in the number of cases since the beginning of September.

 

As a result, fear has gripped citizens and residents, who flocked to mobile testing centres. Testing at the country's only permanent testing centre is by appointment only. These images posted on Twitter show long queues in front of two mobile testing centres.

''Social distancing is not respected, in front of the mobile screening centre set up in Nadi al Ittihad (in Manama),'' says this Bahraini internet user in this picture showing two long queues published on Twitter on September 13.
 

In this video published on Twitter on September 5, 2020, we see a long queue of women waiting in front of a mobile screening centre in the Barbar region, west of the capital Manama.

 

''Social distancing isn't respected during religious festivals.''

Mossaab Echeikh, 39, is a journalist and activist.

Many of these cases are due to the violation of the decision of the health authorities to ban all festivities related to the commemoration of Ashura [a religious holiday celebrated by the Shiite community that marks the assassination of Imam Hussein Ibn Ali in Karbala in 680, one of Mohammed's grandsons and one of the holy figures of the Shiite branch of Islam] [a majority of the Bahraini population is Shiite, 62% according to an estimate by the Washington Institute, editor's note].

There has been a great respect for the lockdown, particularly due to the fines imposed by the state. However, family gatherings pose a problem: despite the ban on all types of gatherings, I have noticed that social distancing is not respected during small wedding celebrations. People don't greet each other with their hands or kiss, but that's not enough, since they don't wear masks. A colleague of mine told me that one of his close relatives, who was just over 40 years old and suffering from a chronic illness, died after catching the coronavirus during a family gathering, and members of his family are currently suffering from Covid-19. I think there is a shared responsibility for the spread of the epidemic during these past weeks.
 
''The village of Karkazane (south-west of Manama) celebrates the second evening of the holy month of Muharram (as part of the Ashura festivities which take place during the first ten days of the month). People demonstrated their discipline (by respecting social distancing) ...'' says this internet user on this photo published on Twitter August 21, 2020.
 
As of September 16, Bahrain had reported 62,484 confirmed cases, including 216 deaths since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic. Faced with the increase in the number of positive cases, the health authorities decided on September 17 to postpone the start of the school year for administrative staff and teachers in public schools until October 4. The ban on on-site services in cafés and restaurants was extended until October 24, 2020.

Article by Omar Tiss.