Gulf countries over the past week launched campaigns calling on the public to donate blood to help health care professionals treat patients amid the coronavirus outbreak that has led to over 16,000 cases of infection and 109 deaths across the GCC countries alone.
Saudi Arabia launched several blood-drive campaigns in many of its regions including in al-Jawf, Najran, Asir, Jazan, Abha, Khamis Mushait governorate, and Ahad Rufaidah governorate among others.
Ambulences traveled across the Kingdom collecting blood, allowing the public to donate without leaving their homes to go to hospitals or blood banks in compliance with the lockdown.
“Saudi hospitals are facing shortages in blood and platelets. If you can donate, please do. Use the @WateenApp to find the nearest location and get an exemption for movement during curfew hours,” said journalist Ahmed al-Omran in a tweet, which Wateen, Saudi Arabia’s national online blood donation platform, retweeted.
In the UAE, Abu Dhabi’s health officials urged people to donate blood last week.
"There is a drop in blood donations. We need at least 100 donors a day to cover the needs of patients in Abu Dhabi. However, [for the] past two weeks, we are collecting half of what we used to collect," Dr. Naima Oumeziane, the medical director of Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, was quoted by local newspapers as saying.
“Because people are afraid of the virus, few people are coming forward to donate… We will go anywhere to collect blood but people are too scared to do so. Donating blood is a safe process. Please keep donating,” she added.
In Oman, Dr. Zainab al-Oraimi, Director of Blood Banks Services at the Ministry of Health, said on April 6 that the Sultanate was experiencing a significant drop in blood donations amid the coronavirus pandemic because of the fear of infection.
Al-Oraimi urged healthy individuals to schedule appointments to donate blood or blood platelets.
“One way to achieve constant availability of blood amid this crucial time is through the generosity of our country’s blood donors who are needed now more than ever to ensure blood supply remains stable and ongoing for blood transfusion cases,” she stressed.
Convalescent plasma transfusion
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins through the body. When taken from someone who has recovered from an illness, it contains antibodies that can fight said illness.
In Kuwait, the health minister asked those who have recovered from the COVID-19 to donate their blood so that doctors could use the plasma to treat currently infected patients.
“We ask all those who recovered from the coronavirus to donate their blood to benefit from the plasma in treating the infected as this treatment has been medically proven positive,” Kuwaiti Health Minister Sheikh Dr. Basel al-Sabah tweeted on Friday.
In the UAE, Dubai's Health Authority (DHA) said on Sunday it will start this week treating critical coronavirus patients using plasma from recovered patients, after the clinical efficacy of the treatment has been proven.
The Director of Dubai Health Care Corporation at the Dubai Health Authority, Dr. Younis Kazim, said the authority has introduced a protocol for this type of treatment in its hospitals and private health sector hospitals in Dubai, as part of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus and accelerate the treatment of patients.
Dr. Kazim added that the DHA outlined rules and guidelines to specify who can make based plasma donations and who is eligible to receive this treatment.
“Doctors believe the plasma of patients who have completely recovered from COVID-19 is rich in antibodies that can fight off the virus. When such plasma is injected into another person with the disease, it will recognize the virus as something to attack,” Dr. Kazim added.
In Bahrain, the ministry of health said on Monday it will start clinical trials using convalescent plasma transfusion to combat the disease in currently infected patients. The trials will include 20 coronavirus cases in isolation and treatment centers.