Understanding self-monitoring, quarantine

Hakim Hayat

As the number of coronavirus cases grows in Brunei, we’re hearing a lot about how self-monitoring and even quarantine play into containment efforts. But what do those terms mean, and when do they apply?

Dr Justin Wong, Head of the Disease Control Division at the Ministry of Health (MoH), spoke with the Bulletin and shared some insight. Here’s a quick guide for what you need to know:

Q: What is the difference between self-monitoring and self-isolation/quarantine?

According to Dr Wong, the quarantine order and self-isolation notice are policies of the MoH to protect the public by separating individuals with a high-risk to be infected with COVID-19.

The quarantine order is given to close contacts, while self-isolation notices are given to those returning from overseas.

“Under the Infectious Diseases Act Chapter 204, those who have been given a quarantine order or self-isolation notice must stay at home or at a designated quarantine centre for a period that has been set, and are restricted from activities with the public and must monitor their health for 14 days,” he said.

Dr Justin Wong, Head of the Disease Control Division at the Ministry of Health (MoH)
The Sports Village at the Hassanal Bolkiah Sports Complex is currently being used as a quarantine centre. PHOTOS: HAKIM HAYAT & RAHWANI ZAHARI

He highlighted that adherence to the order will be monitored by the MoH, with assistance from the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) daily, for the given period. The monitoring will be done through video calls, GPS tracking and spot-checks.

Self-monitoring meanwhile is the monitoring of one’s own health without any isolation and if they show symptoms of fever or breathing infections such as cough, flu and difficulty in breathing, they must call the Health Advice Line at 148 to obtain advice and find out where they should go.

He said, “Latest developments have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare COVID-19 as a pandemic. Hence, members of the public are urged to monitor own health as a precautionary measure.”

Q: During self-isolation or quarantine, what activities can be carried out?

Dr Wong highlighted that, if you are asked to undergo quarantine or self-isolate, it is important that you follow the advice which is there to help keep you, your loved ones and your community safe.

“You must comply with the instructions of the health officer,” he said. “Failure to do so may result in penalties.”

He said that quarantine or 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 by all the instructions you need to follow are available on the MoH website.”

He said, “For people who have been instructed to quarantine themselves, this usually takes place at home, or what we call home quarantine.

“This means that once they reach their residence you must: stay at home, not go to work, school or public areas, not use public transport, avoid visitors to your home, ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you – such as getting groceries, medications or other shopping.”

As being isolated can cause one to feel more anxious, bored and stressed, Dr Wong said that keeping active and maintaining a normal daily routine as much as possible can help them cope.

Some suggestions Dr Wong gave include:

• Keep in touch with other family and friends by phone, text, e-mail or social media. Talk to them about COVID-19. Understanding the disease will reduce anxiety;

• Exercise regularly. Options include floor exercises, home aerobics, walking around the backyard and 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 and treat quarantine as an opportunity to do some of those things you never usually have time for, such as reading, music, and preparing healthy meals.

As of yesterday, a total of 1,633 are undergoing quarantine order under the Infectious Disease Act Chapter 204 in Brunei. Those who have concluded their quarantine at the Sports Village in Berakas or their residences total 101 individuals, and they are all in healthy condition.

The MoH also recently informed of the amendment of the Infectious Diseases Act Chapter 204 under the Infectious Diseases Act (Amendment) Order, 2020, effective January 30, 2020.

Following this amendment, whomsoever in breach or refusing any order that has been issued by the MoH such as hosting gatherings at any place that has been forbidden or leaving the place of quarantine at any point in the quarantine period, will have found to be in violation of the Infectious Diseases Act (Chapter 204) and is punishable with a fine of up to BND10,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.

The MoH said it will not be hesitant in taking legal action against any individual who has gone against the directives.