Brunei scores high in immunisation, access to communications infrastructure

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam performed better in political and security, socio-economic resilience, infrastructure and public health vulnerabilities in the 2019 Global Health Security Index (GHS) study developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit and John Hopkins University which ranks countries based on their preparedness to face a pandemic.

It also scored well in the Rapid Response Pillar with 100 per cent in trade and travel restrictions, immunisation with 98 per cent, access to communications infrastructure (92.3 per cent), laboratory system (66.7 per cent) and commitment to sharing biological data, genetic and specimens (66.7 per cent).

The study looks at six categories – prevention, detection, response, health system, commitment to improve, and vulnerability to biological threats – and assesses countries’ preparedness through 140 related questions.The GHS Index assesses countries across six categories, 34 indicators, and 140 questions deliberately using only public information. The index benchmarks health security in the context of other factors critical to fighting outbreaks, such as political and security risks, the broader health system, and country adherence to global norms.

Amid the threat posed by COVID-19, the GHS Index has been used repeatedly as a reference for global preparedness during the pandemic. This is a key goal of the GHS Index. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a proof point for its main finding: national health security is fundamentally weak around the world.

No country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics, and every country has important gaps to address.

In the past five months, the world has seen how an isolated outbreak in one country has rapidly grown to a global pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak has proven that a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere, and no country can rely on the strength of its own preparedness alone.

The global average GHS Index score is just 40.2, out of a possible score of 100. Even among the 60 high-income countries assessed, the average score is 51.9.

“The results are alarming: All countries – at all income levels – have major gaps in their capabilities, and they aren’t sufficiently investing in biological preparedness,” said NTI Co-Chair and CEO Ernest J Moniz.

“The bottom line is that global biological risks are growing – in many cases faster than health systems, security, science, and governments can keep up. We need to ensure that all countries are prepared to respond to these risks.”

The response to the COVID-19 outbreak makes it clear that the world is collectively unprepared for a pandemic. Plans to combat COVID-19 require local, national, regional and global action.

In other previous ranking report, Brunei Darussalam has fallen seven places in Bloomberg’s latest global health report rankings. The Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index 2019, which ranks 169 countries, placed the Sultanate in the 44th spot. In the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index published in 2017, Brunei Darussalam was ranked 37th.

The index grades nations based on variables including life expectancy while imposing penalties on risks such as tobacco use and obesity. It also takes into consideration environmental factors including access to clean water and sanitation.