Brunei Darussalam, through the whole-of-nation approach, continues to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak in the country by adopting new policies to protect the people, especially the vulnerable.
The success in containing the coronavirus was shared by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin in a speech at the Special Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development held via video conferencing on June 10.
The minister also outlined some of the important initiatives that the country has implemented to cushion the impact of the global pandemic.
To protect the vulnerable, the minister said, “BruHealth app acts as an essential tool, through a self-assessment feature and a tracker for risk exposure, which alerts users of potential harm of certain public spaces. This allows them to feel empowered by the technology in protecting their health and well-being.”
The minister added, “The platforms to reach out to vulnerable groups took shape with the formation of a COVID-19 Volunteer Operations Centre. This body attracted over 1,500 individuals from different backgrounds and age groups to register as volunteers to deliver food rations and protective equipment to the needy. Social workers, at the same time, have also worked relentlessly to reach out to the vulnerable throughout the pandemic.
“The work poses health threats to these frontliners, thus spurred us to look into ways to minimise their health risk. In this regard, Brunei Darussalam looks forward to further discussion on Vietnam’s proposal to have an ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion of Social Work.”
In caring for the vulnerable, Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan highlighted the online platforms established by the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, with the help of businesses and non-government organisations (NGOs), to coordinate contributions from the people, such as the Community for Brunei virtual marketplace, designed to help small businesses as well as charitable causes.
A national COVID-19 Relief Fund has also been made available for the public to contribute directly to aid the nation’s efforts in mitigating the coronavirus, he said.
The minister also underscored the importance of technology in realising the aspiration to create a caring society.
Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan joined his ASEAN counterparts in looking forward to working closely with other ASEAN ministerial bodies to ensure protection, inclusion and resilience of the poor and vulnerable in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, the recent meeting was chaired by Lao Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng. Themed ‘Mitigating Impacts of COVID-19 on Vulnerable Groups in ASEAN’, the regional ministers shared experiences and insights on the strategies in line with ASEAN agenda on social protection and welfare of the vulnerable in pandemic time.
The meeting saw the support of an ongoing and accelerated efforts of ASEAN member states to ensure a social safety net and implement risk-informed, evidence-based and shock-responsive social protection systems to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk groups and improve their overall resilience, as guided by the Chairman’s statement on ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019, and the Declaration of the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019.
The meeting recognised the differentiated and disproportionate impacts of the spread of the virus on poor children, the elderly, women and girls, person with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups, and agreed that there is a pressing need to guarantee their protection while safeguarding their rights and dignity.
There was also an agreement being struck during the meeting that ASEAN stays united and work together to intensify regional cooperation and support actions at all levels that place the poor and the vulnerable at the centre of all COVID-19 responses and recovery measures.
The ministers also resolved to facilitate access to social protection with appropriate allocation of public funds, strengthen inter-agency cooperation at the national level and inter-sectoral cooperation at the ASEAN level, endeavour to develop comprehensive and integrated post-pandemic recovery programmes through the use of technology and secure the health and safety of social workers and volunteers.