Experts dissect COVID challenges

Izah Azahari

The Knowledge Convention 2020 webinar titled ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Challenge: The Southeast Asian Experience’ was held at the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) on Thursday, with Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud as the guest of honour.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (Civil Service, Welfare, International and Media) at the PMO Haji Muhammad Suffian bin Haji Bungsu, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Policy and Religious) at the Ministry of Religious Affairs Haji Mohd Serudin bin Haji Timbang and Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) Rector Dr Haji Norarfan bin Haji Zainal attended.

KUPU SB Ra’es cum event co-chairman Dr Haji Adanan bin Haji Basar said the cooperation in the knowledge convention seminar was testament to the strong ties between UNISSA, KUPU SB and regional universities.

Referencing the Knowledge Convention 2020 theme’s of showing gratitude for the blessings of health as a gift from Allah the Almighty (with a sub-theme related to the COVID-19 pandemic), the panels of local and foreign experts shared via the online seminar their experience on the challenges and actions implemented by the governments and communities in each country.

The panellists comprised the Ministry of Health’s Consultant Oncologist Dr Haji Muhammad Syafiq bin Abdullah; KUPU SB’s Dean of Syariah Faculty Dr Haji Noralizam bin Haji Aliakhbar; Universiti Malaya Head of Al-Qur’an Research Centre Dato’ Professor Dr Mohd Yakub @ Zulkifli bin Mohd Yusoff; Rector of Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta Professor Dr Haji Amany Burhanuddin Umar Lubis; Deputy Rector for International Relations Fatoni University Professor Dr Sukree Langputeh and S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Assistant Professor Dr Mohamed bin Ali. UNISSA Deputy Rector Dr Haji Mohammed Hussain bin Pehin Penyurat Haji Ahmad was the moderator.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud tours the exhibition. PHOTOS: KUPU SB
KUPU SB Ra’es Dr Haji Adanan bin Haji Basar delivers his speech

Dr Haji Muhammad Syafiq touched on the symptoms of the virus, including fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, loss of sense of smell and taste, cough, difficulty waking up, feeling disoriented, coughing up blood, and kidney failure.

Preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei Darussalam began on December 2019 with the establishment of the National Isolation Centre carrying out surveillance and screening by public health officials, while tests were conducted starting January 2020.

After the first case was detected in the Sultanate, measures including screening and tests, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation were implemented aggressively. Additionally, border closure, warnings on mass gatherings and social distancing were also carried out, he explained.

The April 1, 2020 opening of the Molecular Diagnostic Unit for respiratory viruses functions as a National Virology Reference Laboratory for SARS-CoV-2. To keep the public abreast with the latest developments, live daily press conferences were held, on top of media applications such as BruHealth and Telegram, and health advice videos by frontliners.

Meanwhile, Dr Haji Noralizam’s session discussed Brunei Darussalam’s approach to handling the pandemic, employing the common practices related to treatment and medicine, coupled with the spiritual approach of ‘divine vaccine’.

This approach cannot be abandoned, Dr Haji Noralizam said, adding that its importance was further emphasised by 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 through the reading of Al-Quran, reciting Surah Yaasiin, Doa Qunut Nazilah and Doa to seek protection from the virus.

UNISSA officers, academic staff and students viewed the live webinar from the UNISSA Auditorium.

A health exhibition was also held at KUPU SB and UNISSA.