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 said whatever COVID-19 category the infected may be in, it is alarming as no one wants to test positive for the virus.
In a titah chairing the meeting of the COVID-19 Steering Committee at Istana Nurul Iman yesterday, His Majesty said for deaths due to COVID-19, it would not be appropriate to find other causes of death as the deceased was infected with the coronavirus.
The presence of the highly transmissible Omicron has caused cases to rise daily to the point of bringing anxiety to the infected with less severe symptoms (Category 1,2 and 3).
Meanwhile, patients in Category 4 and 5, while having completed their vaccination schedule, are found to be suffering from other health problems. There are deaths caused by COVID-19 while others are categorised as not related to the virus.
“I was made to understand that the nation is making efforts to provide protection to the citizens and residents through vaccination. Over 96 per cent of the population have received two doses of the vaccine while over 56 per cent have been boosted. According to studies from abroad, vaccination could reduce the effects of COVID-19 to health.
“The COVID-19 Steering Committee has devised several strategies in ensuring that the outbreak is under control, and at the same time, enable the citizens and residents to carry on their lives in new normal, earning a living and secure employment.
“Among the strategies include restricting entry of foreign workers and requiring approval from the Prime Minister’s Office for individuals to go abroad. In my view, these strategies are part of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).”
His Majesty noted that there are two SOPs – normal and religious, both of which should be seen as equally important.
“Normal SOPs are based on human discretion while religious SOPs come from the creator of mankind. This can be seen from the knowledge perspective as being based on belief. I am of the opinion that SOPs such as wearing a facemask, scanning the BruHealth code, and social distancing need to continue to provide protection to the people and the nation.”
The monarch also said the emergence of the Omicron variant has affected the existing strategies with the rising number of cases to breach the four digit mark, compared to one or two digits previously. It has surpassed 4,000 daily cases, and soon will hit the 5,000-case mark if the number continues to spike.
“Can we not worry about developments like this?” His Majesty asked, adding that, “there is still information that is not transparent”.
The monarch continued, “Is the method currently used to screen COVID-19 appropriate?”
His Majesty continued, “I was informed that the daily case number is increasing due to the use of antigen rapid test (ART) kits self-administered by the public since February 18.
“In other countries, positive cases are confirmed through PCR testing, which along with ART screening, are carried out by professionals.
“I believe that if other countries follow the method employed by our country, their rates of positive cases will also be high. The method may be feasible but the question is whether or not the public understands.
“The absence of information sharing has also caused comparisons with other countries to the point where some question whether Brunei has failed to address the COVID-19 outbreak. I believe that from public health perspective, Brunei has tried its best.”
Also present at the meeting were His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar gave the latest update of the COVID-19 situation in the country.