This year started off quite differently for everyone, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across nations globally, and affecting the Sultanate in March 2020.
In the face of the pandemic, brave frontliners from various fields have stepped forward, working over-time to curb the spread of the killer virus.
Working hours changed with the emergence of the crisis. Frontliners in the healthcare profession bore the brunt of it, having to tackle extremely challenging circumstances as they worked tirelessly to flatten the curve.
In appreciation and recognition of their sacrifices, 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 in an April 14, 2020 titah outlined an incentive of a monthly BND400 special allowance for healthcare workers and those involved in the fight against COVID-19 in the Sultanate.
The allowance is granted to doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, volunteers, cleaners, security guards and those working with the Ministry of Health (MoH), especially at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, National Isolation Centre (NIC) in Tutong and government-designated quarantine centres, which came into effect in March this year and will be extended until the eradication of COVID-19 in Brunei.
“I understand the burden carried by the frontliners. When others are bored sitting at home, they are always looking out for the time when they can go home. At home, their children are waiting and missing them.” This, His Majesty said, is only the emotional side of it, aside from the risks they face as frontliners.
“They are only equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and standard operating procedures (SOP) as a shield, and the rest, only prayers can be made for them,” His Majesty said.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar also expressed appreciation for nurses and midwives for their contribution to healthcare and health protection services, in conjunction with the World Health Day which is themed ‘Support Nurses and Midwives.’
“With the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, they are among the frontliners who sacrifice their time and energy, and take the risks to care for patients,” he said.
Nurses are always committed to holding high standards, including providing high quality patient care, increasing public awareness of the COVID-19 outbreak, providing advice and comfort in addressing patients’ questions and concerns about COVID-19, with some also assisting in the collection of data for clinical studies.
They are kept away from their families and instead have to shoulder the responsibility of providing treatment, in face of dangers of possibly catching the infection themselves.
It is undeniable that without the presence of nurses and midwives, the healthcare amid COVID-19 would have been inadequate.
“I hope that all nurses and midwives in the country will continue to exert their efforts to enhance the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of our services together to achieve lasting excellence, while enhancing our confidence in providing the best possible service to the people – especially patients,” said Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham.
“I am confident that every current nurse or midwife, especially those facing the challenge of COVID-19, will be able to serve as a role model for those who want to venture into nursing and midwifery in the future, to continue to uphold the image and reputation of healthcare workers, which as a profession is of honour and integrity,” he said.
This pandemic has also seen Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) personnel under the RBAF COVID-19 Task Force Support, alongside the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) as well as health frontliners and other enforcement agencies lending assistance and support. As Brunei Darussalam actively collaborates with other nations to ensure that trade flow remains open amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) is still operating flights to transport food and medical supplies into the country, while the government looks for alternatives to ensure food security.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah lauded RB cabin crew and other staffers for braving the COVID-19 crisis, risking their health to interact with individuals affected by COVID-19.
“We cannot afford to quarantine the cabin crew as their services are essential. Therefore, they are also our unsung heroes,” the minister said.