Brunei COVID measures are the ‘strictest’, says minister

Izah Azahari

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar yesterday described Brunei as “the strictest country”, since anyone entering its borders will be quarantined, regardless of whether they are citizens, permanent residents, expatriates or those entering only for essential travel.

The minister said this while addressing public concerns at a press conference yesterday, on whether the Ministry of Health (MoH) has tightened its procedures, in response to the new imported cases as well as in light of the COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom (UK).

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham also said other countries have uneven treatments for incoming travellers, with their own residents being allowed to stay at home, while foreigners placed at hotels.

“We still have the strictest border control, so Insya Allah, this way, we will be able to control transmission, including the COVID-19 variant,” he said.

“Fourteen is still the number of days for quarantine, especially for those arriving from countries with a high community spread, except Singapore.”

Regarding the temporary reduction of services at the Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah (PMMPMHAMB) Hospital, the minister said, “With 21 active cases at the National Isolation Centre (NIC), certain services have to be ceased at the PMMPMHAMB Hospital, as the nurses at the hospital will be looking after the active cases.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar speaks during the press conference. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKAR

On the MoH’s current stockpile in view of the rise in the number of cases, the minister replied, “There is still adequate personal protective equipement (PPE) and other medical supplies, to control the spread” of the epidemic.

The minister said, “At the moment, all hospitals, including private hospitals, are constantly recording their daily usage or daily stock, which is shared with our ministry.

“Two test samples for genetic sequencing have been sent abroad to a World Health Organization (WHO) approved laboratory, but it will unfortunately take a while, as there are no daily flights and will need special packaging to handle the samples.”

Reiterating the MoH’s plans for the procurement and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine, the minister said Brunei has already signed with COVEX through the WHO, for the delivery of the vaccine to 50 per cent of the population.

“For now, a number of vaccines are undergoing the three-phase trials and three have already been completed,” he said.

“Through the technical team, the MoH is still monitoring vaccines that are suitable for us. As there are other countries that are still receiving more patients every day and also dealing with more patient deaths, the vaccine is needed more in those countries.

“With our current situation, we have the capacity to wait for a bit. We want to make sure that whichever vaccine we choose will be safe and that we will be able to implement (the distribution) well.

“A small number has also been agreed upon from AstraZeneca, for about five per cent of the population, which may also only be available from the quarter-phase to next year. Brunei is also in bilateral negotiations with other vaccine manufacturers outside of COVEX.

“COVEX is in the 50 per cent, so we want 70 to 80 per cent of the population to be vaccinated. We have already secured for five per cent of the population. We are still negotiating with other vaccine manufacturers,” the minister added.