Over 30 COVID-19 cases showed no symptoms, says minister

James Kon

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, in a virtual meeting with health ministers in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region on Wednesday, outlined the cases of COVID-19 infection in Brunei Darussalam.

He said, “More than 30 COVID-19 cases in the country did not show any symptoms of infection (asymptomatic), and remained in asymptomatic condition throughout the infections, until they were confirmed to have fully recovered.”

The minister added that close contact investigation on the said cases indicates a possibility of silent transmission, whereby the result of findings has increased and further doubled the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) efforts to carry out COVID-19 testing for those suspected of having the disease but not showing any symptoms.

He recommended the WHO to review existing technical guidelines to ensure that each country truly gives priority to “detection, isolation, testing and treatment of each case in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 infection”.

The minister also appealed to the WHO to lead in identifying exit strategies in avoiding the risk of resurgence, while allowing safe recovery back to normal life in phases.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the virtual meeting with the WHO. PHOTO: MOH

He hoped the WHO would also be at the forefront of a process to establish specific criteria for the gradual lifting of restrictions, as well as taking into account the mental, emotional, social and spiritual health of each individual and community who all need recovery.

The minister acknowledged that the experience of participating in the WHO’s Joint External Evaluation (JEE) held in Brunei Darussalam last year was helpful towards the country’s preparedness in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a whole-of-government response to the early COVID-19 cases; the movement of health personnel in the frontlines; the deployment of the police and military for assistance in contact tracing; the readiness of quarantine areas through the help of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC); raising laboratory capability by building a molecular diagnostic unit for respiratory viruses; and receiving assistance from the community in together curbing the spread of COVID-19 through donations, voluntary work or the provision of other services to help address the COVID-19 outbreak in Brunei Darussalam.

During the sharing session, the minister also recalled the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam which was carried out by the MoH, in working closely with the IHR National Focal Point in Malaysia to trace the COVID-19 cluster from the Tabligh congregants.

The virtual meeting, held at the MoH building, was aimed at exchanging developments on the COVID-19 situation in the Western Pacific region, and to provide the opportunity for health ministers and representatives of each country to share information and experiences in combatting COVID-19.

The virtual meeting began with opening remarks from the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai. Also present to deliver high-level messages were WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs and Sugar Industry of the Republic of Fiji Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama; Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong; Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc; and the Director-General’s Special Envoy for COVID-19 Preparedness and Response of the World Health Organization and Regional Director Emeritus Dr Shin Young-soo.