The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020 disrupted life around the world, forcing people to adapt to the new norms. Brunei Darussalam was no exception, as the first COVID-19 case was reported on March 9, 2020,
In facing the pandemic, the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam made early preparations to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar shared insights on the success of the government’s efforts in curbing COVID-19 in an interview in September 2020.
“When we had our first case in March this year. A few countries in our region had already experienced or had positive COVID-19 patients. Because of travel – and there were no restrictions then – it was just a matter of time when the virus would land in Brunei.”
“So when it happened, we were quite prepared because by then we had the capability to test the virus and from our disaster management plan for pandemics, we allocated where they should be. We also had discussions with all ministers on how each ministry should work together to control the virus.”
Like any other infectious disease, he said, the key is to quickly detect and isolate those having this virus.
“The more and quicker we do it, the better the chance of us controlling and managing the spread of the pandemic,” said the minister.
Speaking on how the Government of His Majesty came up with the stages of restrictions implemented throughout March and April to control the spread of the virus, he said, “When the pandemic occurred, we had a few brainstorming sessions and before we introduced any restrictions, we gathered to set a plan and decide why the restrictions should be there. All ministers and ministries were aware and understood why we should be doing this.”
“Alhamdulillah, with the consent of His Majesty, it was quite smooth how we contained the pandemic.”
With the availability of vaccines, he highlighted “we can be more aggressive with openings, especially the border and hopefully by then, it will be near normal”.
He also added, “With this experience of COVID-19, I think that there are some positive changes like how we dealt with mass gatherings and how we behave in public, where people have improved their ethics in terms of sneezing and coughing. The wearing of masks is no longer something bizarre. Hopefully it will become a positive trend for people. Hopefully people will become more responsible when they are not well, like with fever or flu, they should stay at home. It is fine for them to stay at home because our culture can sometimes be difficult, especially when there is a wedding reception where it’s like an obligation for us to attend.”
To better trace and detect COVID-19 outbreaks in the community, BruHealth was introduced as a one-stop mobile application for anything COVID-19 related in Brunei Darussalam. Users must scan a QR code at business premises or locations, and entry to the premise is determined by the event code of the user.
BruHealth contains an overview of Brunei and the global COVID-19 situation, including latest statistics and trends. The app has a personal assessment code that reflects the infectious risk of the user and will determine the type of activities the user can take part in.
The self-assessment tool on BruHealth is used only as a reference. It does not provide any medical diagnosis, treatment advice and medication guidance.
The app also has frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 and displays the activity trace of the confirmed cases in Brunei and locations of medical resources.
MoH will be introducing new features of Online Personal Health Records, Online Visit Appointment and Online Consultation on the BruHealth app to improve health management among the public.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah highlighted that these additions will allow the government to acquire data in assisting the MoH and other stakeholders to have a more complete picture of the health status of citizens and residents of the country.
These features will assist in predicting infection rates, provide medical resource mapping for more effective planning, especially in the provision of healthcare infrastructure, and help draft better public health policies.
He also attributed the success of the app’s expansion to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), MoH and Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) as well as IT Protective Security Services Sdn Bhd (ITPSS), Dynamik Technologies Sdn Bhd, Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) and EVYD Technology.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak was reported in early January 2020, His Majesty’s Government has implemented several preventive and control measures to ensure public safety.
The Infectious Diseases Act (Chapter 204) came into effect on January 30, 2020. Some instructions have been issued under Chapter 62 (A) of the Act. Any individual found violating instructions under the Infectious Diseases Act will be imposed composed fines of up to BND5,000. They can be brought before court, and if convicted, can be fined up to BND10,000 or six months’ imprisonment or both.
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