Long road from pandemic to endemic, says minister

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam faces a long road ahead in restoring the economy and lifting the partial lockdown, as it did during the first wave, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

“The government is still hoping to vaccinate the majority of the population by the end of the year, depending on the availability of the vaccine,” he said, in response to a question on whether Brunei would enter an endemic phase, once those between the ages of 12 and 17 are vaccinated at the end of the year.

“If we vaccinate those aged below 18 towards the end of the year, it means that we will have reached 80 per cent of the total population, which is even better.”

He added, “The endemic will appear at a later phase in this country. But the community must be willing to accept it and make the proper arrangements for the shift to this phase.

“Other viruses such as H1N1, which is considered endemic, can still be transmitted.

“Even if we are able to achieve vaccination of 80 per cent in the community, it does not necessarily mean we will be lifting the restrictions. We need to establish suitable guidelines on how to loosen restrictions, such as this partial lockdown, to a proper level.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar. PHOTO: JAMES KON

“We began our vaccination programme in April – meaning that by end of this year (December), eight months will have elapsed, with the vaccine efficacy already reduced.”

The minister said, “Thus, restoring our economy or returning to the pre-second wave period will take a long time, as we have to wait for the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine and achieve 80 per cent of the total population, including children. We will also consider administering booster shots.”

He continued, “We also need to take into account the COVID-19 situation in neighbouring countries which border ours.

“Illegal trails (jalan tikus) are also another concern, which is our weakest link in eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are now facing the Delta variant, and the protection afforded by the vaccine is also decreasing. Thus, we need booster shots to further protect us.

“We are hoping for public cooperation. If more people are willing to cooperate, then we can enter the endemic phase in no time, to restore the economy,” he said.