Public urged to remain vigilant amid COVID-19 pandemic

Lyna Mohamad

Scientists and medical specialists are predicting that COVID-19 will not be swiftly eradicated. It will continue to be with us, as in the case of Influenza A H1N1, 11 years ago.

This was highlighted in a talk delivered by Director of Environmental Health Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Dr Hajah Anie Haryani binti Haji Abdul Rahman at the Women’s Special Assembly in conjunction with the Maulidur Rasul celebration for 1442 Hijrah.

“To this day there are still cases of H1N1 detected worldwide, as well as the fatalities caused by it; and Brunei is no exception.

“What is important now is not to abandon hope. We must continue to carry out the preventive measures which are constantly made public.

“The advisories on hand-washing, the wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places, avoiding contact or the shaking of hands, staying away from events if feeling unwell, and observing physical distancing – this is the new normal that we have to adapt,” she said.

She said, “Public health involves the control of environmental issues which pose a risk to health, along with the detection, prevention and response to infectious diseases, particularly outbreaks.

“When news of the pandemic began to surface late December last year, public health professionals closely observed and followed the development of the situation in Wuhan, China.

Director of Environmental Health Services at the Ministry of Health Dr Hajah Anie Haryani binti Haji Abdul Rahman delivers a talk. PHOTO: INFOFOTO

“At the same time, they began to think of how the health systems in their respective countries would be able to respond, should the infection spread outside of China.

“Among the questions being asked then were the origins of the virus, how it was transmitted, how it could be prevented, how to trace it, what would be the most effective treatment – and most importantly, would their country’s health systems be able to respond to it?

“Most of these questions could be addressed by scientific findings. But as to the main question of whether a country’s health system’s capability in responding, the answer is that it requires the cooperation of many parties, rather than just the health sector.

“Coincidentally, in October last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a group of health specialists to Brunei to assess Brunei’s preparedness in facing any public health threats including infectious diseases, viruses, threats from chemical and radiation contamination.

“The preparations for this assessment were carried out approximately 18 months before the WHO specialists arrived in the country. Many meetings and collaborations were set up with the involvement of several agencies.

“It was at this time that the priority and effectiveness of the one-government approach were witnessed and proven. As we know, consultations and team efforts are greatly encouraged in Islam.

“The WHO specialists spent a week to assess the country’s preparedness in several categories in terms of legislation, health policy, financial allocation leading to technical issues such as zoonotic or animal-borne diseases, which can infect humans; food safety, and preparedness at the country’s main points of entry.

”Nearly all of the ministries were involved in this assessment. The results were positive and encouraging. There were some improvements that needed to be made, but overall, it
was satisfactory.”

The assessment report is available on the WHO website, and the next one conducted in 2024, she said.

She also said, “Two months after the assessment, COVID-19 appeared. Alhamdulillah, the lessons gained from the WHO assessment convinced all sides that we, in Brunei, were capable of tackling the virus through the one-nation approach principle which had already been instilled.

“This conviction was further bolstered by the concern and strong support from our sovereign leader, 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.”

Dr Hajah Anie Haryani also disclosed that scientists and medical specialists, including those in public health, have learned much about COVID-19, since its appearance 10 months ago.