Country with one of world’s highest vaccine rates battling record COVID outbreak

People wait in Sitra Mall to get vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sitra, Bahrain, March 23, 2021. Picture taken March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
People waiting for a coronavirus vaccine in Sitra, Bahrain. The country currently has one of the world's highest infection rates. (Reuters)

It has one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world. But the situation in Bahrain also serves as a reminder that high jab numbers offer no guarantee against massive infection surges.

Bahrain, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, is the country with the sixth-highest rate of vaccines administered at 101.83 doses per 100 people, with more than 55% of all people have received at least one dose.

As of Monday, however, it also had the second-highest seven-day infection rate globally, at 1,653 cases per one million people. Only the Maldives – 1,865 per million – has a higher rate.

The surge in cases, which is Bahrain’s worst during the entire pandemic, highlights the point that COVID-19 will continue to quickly spread among people who have yet to receive a vaccine.

Bahrain’s health ministry said on 20 May that its upswing in cases was due to large gatherings at home during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and Eid holidays, as well as increased testing.

Watch: Boris Johnson admits road map could be delayed because of Indian variant (from Thursday)

As cases continued to increase last week, the island nation imposed a partial lockdown on Thursday, with shopping centres, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers orders to close for two weeks.

The problems in Bahrain demonstrate the dilemma facing ministers and scientific advisers in England as they mull over whether to end lockdown on 21 June.

Read more:

England urged to 'push on' with end of lockdown by senior government COVID adviser

Why Brits are being told to stop talking about the 'Indian' variant

Like Bahrain, England has a high vaccination rate but there are concerns the Indian variant, renamed the 'delta' variant by the World Health Organization, could spark a third wave.

Meanwhile, Bahrain is among the countries likely to be added to the UK's travel ban "red list" due to its infection surge. The list will be updated later this week.

Watch: UK vaccines in numbers