Minister calls for cooperation in health

James Kon

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar called for further cooperation from ASEAN Plus Three Countries during the ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers Meeting (APTHMM) last Tuesday, through video conferencing.

His statement on intervention was read out by Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the Ministry of Health Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif.

In outlining further cooperation from ASEAN Plus Three Countries in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “Firstly, we must strengthen and work closely with the relevant agencies in our own countries through a whole-of-government approach, to ease logistical activities that concern the supply, production and transportation of medical supplies and equipment, as well as garnering the support and trust of the public in the spirit of togetherness through a whole-of-society approach to address the pandemic.

“Secondly, we need to more effectively leverage on the regional networking that already exists, through working closely with other dialogue and development partners, and other regional and global entities, notably with our World Health Organization (WHO) regional offices in sharing information in sourcing medical supplies and equipment for procurement.

“Finally, we should also look into existing mechanisms, and manage, as well as utilise, various funding sources to obtain medical supplies and equipment for COVID-19, according to the needs or requirement of each country, where possible.”

On behalf of the Government of Brunei Darussalam, the minister also expressed the nation’s sympathies “for the loss of life and our solidarity with colleagues across the region who have been affected by the COVID-19 event. Brunei Darussalam stands united with all member states, and all those working to respond to the threat from COVID-19.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar and senior officials at the Ministry of Health during the virtual ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers Meeting. PHOTO: JAMES KON

On the spread of COVID-19, he said, “Our ASEAN Plus Three region is facing a serious health security threat that has disrupted our healthcare systems, loss of life and social and economic consequences on our people. In Brunei Darussalam, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is currently 135, with 85 patients recovered and one death.

“Many of us have had to impose restrictive measures to contain or mitigate the threat of COVID-19. These measures are justified in preventing our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. At the same time however, this should not prevent or delay us from attaining essential medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment.

“Additionally, we cannot forget the huge financial requirements needed to fund all the health and related measures and the impact to the society, business activities and economy of the county as a whole.

“Since the pandemic began, many countries are facing increased demands for medications related to supportive treatment of COVID-19, and other medical consumables such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitisers and disinfectants. These have been difficult to obtain, due to not only by the limited flights and lockdowns, but also the rising prices of these items from suppliers.”

“Brunei Darussalam is not spared from this problem. Being a small country in this region, and with very limited pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, all of our medicines and vaccines have to be imported. In addition to that, our suppliers also have difficulty in obtaining active pharmaceutical ingredients to manufacture end products due to lockdowns which have led to shortages in production.”

In concluding his statement, the minister said, “Brunei Darussalam would like to express our utmost appreciation and gratitude to our ASEAN and Plus Three Countries for the assistance extended for addressing this pandemic.

“Our cooperation and collective work together, in platforms such as these, but also at the technical level, has proven to benefit all of us in the past, and by continue to working together, it will continue to bring benefits to the people in our region in ensuring a concerted response to deal with regional health threats at this time and in the future. We must continue on this journey together, and in so doing, we can keep our region and our people safe, secure, and healthy again.”