MoH introduces public health measures

With the COVID-19 epidemic spreading around the world, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has introduced a public health measure known as self-isolation for travellers returning from high-risk countries or areas, known as Category A countries (including mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) or areas to prevent and control the disease in Brunei Darussalam.

Self-isolation is about protecting others and slowing down the spread of COVID-19. It is very important that anyone who has the virus, or might have been exposed to it, limits the number of people they come into contact with for 14 days. This is the most effective way of preventing the coronavirus from spreading, the ministry stated in a release yesterday.

The release added if asked to self-isolate, it is important to follow the advice which is to help keep you, loved ones, and the community safe. “You must comply with the instructions of the health officer, and failure to do so may result in penalties,” the release added. “Self-isolation may seem tricky at first, but across Brunei Darussalam, hundreds of people have already successfully done it. If you have been advised to self-isolate, all the instructions you need to follow are available on the Ministry of Health website.”

Advice for recently returned travellers from Category A countries

If an individual recently returned from or transited through a Category A country, that is a country with sustained community transmission of COVID-19, the individual must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Brunei Darussalam.

In practical terms, this means that once the individual reaches his or her residence, the individual must stay at home, not go to work, school or public areas, not to use public transport, avoid visitors to the individual’s home and ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands such as getting groceries, medications or other shopping.

Stay at home

People who are recommended to be self-isolated should not attend public places, in particular workplace, school, childcare or university.

Only people who usually live in the household should be in the home. Visitors should not be allowed home.

The ministry release added that there was no need to wear masks at home but the individual should limit contact with household members.

Stay in a different room and maintain a distance of at least two metres from everyone else (eg sleeping in a separate bed from one’s spouse, especially if the spouse is not under isolation too). It is important that the individual separates “yourself from other people in your home and if you share facilities like toilets and bathrooms, regular cleaning will be required.

Clean frequently touched surfaces such as bedside tables, bedframe, and other bedroom furniture, bathroom and toilet surfaces daily with regular household cleaners (eg Clorox or Dettol) or a diluted bleach solution,” the release stressed.

The individual should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, separate from other people at home. Open windows for a few hours daily.

Get others such as friends or family, who are not required to be isolated to get food or other necessities.

If the individual must leave home, such as to seek medical care, wear a surgical mask.

Monitor symptoms

When in self-isolation, the individual should monitor for symptoms. In particular, the individual should watch out for fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other early symptoms to watch for are chills, body aches, sore throat, headache and runny nose, muscle pain or diarrhoea.

The individual will also receive regular follow up calls by MoH officers who will enquire about the overall health condition, and also calls to ‘spot-check’ that the individual is complying with these measures.

What do I do if I get unwell?

If the individual develops mild symptoms, isolate from others and put on a mask. Call the Health Advice Line (2381380 or 2381383) or the designated contact point given when the individual registered at the Port Health counter and inform them of the recent travel history.

If the individual has serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 991 and ask for an ambulance and notify the telephone operator of the recent travel history.

Wash your hands

Practising good hand hygiene and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses, the ministry added.

It is advised to wash hands often with soap and water before and after eating as well as after using the toilet; avoid contact with others (including touching, kissing, hugging, and other intimate contact); cover mouth and nose with tissue or into the elbow when coughing and sneezing.

Advice for others in the household

Other members of the household are not required to be isolated unless they have also travelled to a Category A country in the past 14 days. They should maintain a safe distance, and sleep in a separate room from the individual.

Going outside

If the individual is living in a private house, then it is safe to go into the garden or private outdoor space. Wear a surgical mask if there is anyone else there. If the individual is living in an apartment, it is also safe to go outside on the balcony.

Keeping active while in self-isolation at home

Being isolated can cause a person to feel more anxious, bored and stressed. Keeping active and maintaining a normal daily routine as much as possible can help cope.

Some suggestions include being in touch with family members and friends by phone, text, e-mail or social media. Talk to them about COVID-19. Understanding the disease will reduce anxiety.

The release added, “Think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation too. Remember that self-isolation will not last for long.”

– Exercise regularly. Options could include exercise DVDs, dancing, floor exercises, home aerobics, walking around the backyard or using home exercise equipment, such as a stationary bicycle. Exercise is a proven treatment for stress and depression.

– Arrange with your employer to work from home, if possible.

– Ask your child’s school to supply assignments, work sheets and homework by email.

– Treat self-isolation as an opportunity to do some of those things you never usually have time for, such as reading, music, and cooking healthy meals.”