Shorter quarantine period amid 2nd wave is too risky

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has done a stellar job over the last eight months to contain and control the COVID-19 outbreak. However, just as the country is beginning to ease restrictions, coronavirus cases around the world are surging amid a second wave.

With Brunei opening up to business travellers, the new system is now in place allowing shorter quarantine periods for people travelling from countries deemed low risk. Given that surges in cases often happen quickly, countries seen as low or moderate risk today may become high risk tomorrow. After entering the country and completing shorter quarantine periods, these travellers may still pose a risk to the community due to the virus incubation periods.

With the fluidity of COVID-19 cases changing in many countries, along with a huge surge in case numbers around the world and time lapses of data as reported by various countries, combined with some countries now operating on a state or county tier risk system, these issues may make the authorities’ job of monitoring and assessing a country’s ‘risk’ for quarantine purposes that much more difficult.

Given these challenges, the authorities may want to consider moving to a fixed period quarantine of seven to 10 days; a number of countries have already adopted this approach as it may ease the monitoring and assessment burden while being safer for the wider community.

Many countries now require a polymerise chain reaction (PCR) test to be taken at least 72 hours before an overseas flight. However, recently, an Indonesian family of five with negative PCR tests were found to be positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Australia. It shows that the reliance on the test is limited, and therefore a longer quarantine period of seven to 10 days is warranted, with testing towards the later stage of the quarantine period, which has shown to produce a higher accuracy rate, thus better protect the community.

As a long-time resident in Brunei, I feel fortunate to be living here and feel safe in the knowledge that the authorities took early action and implemented effective measures to control and contain the spread of the virus.

While I miss my family overseas, I fully support the safety measures in place and realise that allowing citizens and residents casual overseas travel opportunities during this period would greatly increase the risk of community spread.

As cases continue to rise throughout the world, we should continue to remain vigilant, practise good health hygiene and support the MoH directives that are keeping us safe.

A Concerned Resident