Korean Embassy praises Brunei’s preparedness

James Kon

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Brunei Darussalam Ko Sung Min has praised the Government of Brunei’s approach in containing the COVID-19 outbreak while expressing his confidence that the country will overcome this crisis.

Ko, who arrived in the country last February, met with officers and staff at the Ministry of Health (MoH) early this month to discuss the preparations needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He told the Sunday Bulletin, “The staff members at the MoH’s Disease Control Division (DCD) are very well-informed and updated on COVID-19, and they are well-prepared for the arrival of the invisible enemy. After meeting with the MoH in early March, I feel as safe as I had been in Korea.

“Since the start of the outbreak in early January, up until March 26,” he said, “Brunei Darussalam has conducted 4,519 tests for COVID-19. This means that even before discovering positive cases, Brunei Darussalam had been actively carrying out COVID-19 testing on high-risk people.”

He added that the Republic of Korea, with its population of 50 million, has carried out around 360,000 tests, which translates to 0.7 per cent of its people. Comparatively, Brunei Darussalam “has carried out more than 4,000 tests, which is 0.9 per cent, which is higher than the Republic of Korea”.

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Brunei Darussalam Ko Sung Min. PHOTO: JAMES KON

He said the MoH recently announced testing on individuals in self-isolation, and this strategy of “proactively tracing and detecting cases”, he believed, has led to early isolation and early treatment, which explained the low COVID-19 mortality rate in the country.

He also applauded the government for its “inter-agency coordination, such as warning employers against deducting salaries or annual leaves of their employees if they are in self-isolation or quarantine”, which has “very significant implications. If employees are being penalised for being in quarantine or self-isolation, they will be discouraged from reporting their medical symptoms”.

In the Republic of Korea, he said, “transparency was the key to encouraging cooperation. We provided as much detailed information as possible for the public. The Korean Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also gave daily press releases in English, so that the international media could get a hold of what was happening in Korea”.

He believed this transparency “is a good way to fight misinformation, which can be very dangerous in the current situation (COVID-19 outbreak). In Brunei Darussalam, I always seek information from the official MoH website and the Borneo Bulletin“.

The Korean Deputy Chief of Mission also acknowledged the sacrifices made by the frontline medical team.

“Frontliners are put through enormous stress. They are fighting off the fear of getting infected,” he said, and called for support for these medical personnel by “practising social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the country.