Ministry of Health focusses on efforts to contain COVID-19

Hakim Hayat

Hundreds of close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brunei have come forward to be tested at a 24-hour temporary facility at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Sports Complex where health front liners work round the clock to ensure the smooth and safe conduct of the operations and continuity of regular health services.

The flu clinic temporarily moved to the sports complex for the safety of other patients and to ensure the smooth running of hospital services. The clinic received over 100 patients until 10pm on Thursday.

Its operations have been extended to 24-hours to cater to more close contacts to be tested for COVID-19, which has infected 37 people in Brunei.

RIPAS Hospital Internal Medical Consultant Dr Haji Muhammad Nurhasanuddin bin Abdullah Kelali said COVID-19 swab tests done at the centre is applicable for confirmed close contacts of those who tested positive for the virus and those who travelled to countries in categories A, B and C in the last 14 days showing fever and breathing difficulty symptoms.

Category A has countries or areas showing continuous transmission of COVID-19, including mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

COVID-19 swab test samples at RIPAS Hospital ready to be tested. PHOTO: HAKIM HAYAT
Health officials sort out samples. PHOTOS: Hakim Hayat
RIPAS Hospital Internal Medical Consultant Dr Haji Muhammad Nurhasanuddin bin Abdullah Kelali

Category B has countries or areas showing limited transmission of the virus but where big clusters have been reported including France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR (China), Japan and Singapore.

Category C includes Macau SAR (China), Malaysia (except Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan), Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (US) and Vietnam where local transmissions were reported.

Close contacts include family members, those who shared food and attended gatherings with positive cases, those in a confined area with a positive COVID-19 patient for more than 30 minutes or a patient’s colleagues.

Dr Haji Muhammad Burhasanuddin said some 15 medical officers and support staff are working in each shift, with contingencies in place to pull in medical officers from different departments to assist in the testing procedures, which he said will usually take about 24 hours to confirm.

“Our laboratory and medical services team are working very hard as more people turn up, increasing the workload. This is why we prioritise the highest risk group contacts and those with travel history with symptoms only,” he said.

By extending the service to 24 hours, he said they can conduct proper assessments and prevent overcrowding and ensure all tests are done efficiently.

Dr Haji Muhammad Burhasanuddin said since the announcement of the virus outbreak, the Ministry of Health (MoH) started to activate and form contingency plans, according to standard operating procedures (SOP).

With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic recently, he highlighted that Brunei is currently in the “containment” stage.

“We know where the case clusters come from so we are still trying to contain it by calling in the close contacts, with hopes to trace and contain it. That’s our aim at the moment,” he added.

To ensure they have enough manpower to handle the situation, Dr Haji Muhammad Burhasanuddin said non-urgent medical operations are being reduced to focus their efforts to contain the virus.

“This is why the public must understand why scheduled operations are being cancelled and even circumcision services, because we want to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 does not get worse and out of control,” he said.

Dr Haji Muhammad Burhasanuddin said business is still as usual at hospitals and clinics as those who need urgent attention will be tended to accordingly.

“It has only been less than a week since the virus first appeared here, and we are trying as much as possible to successfully contain it while running normal medical services,” he said.