Minister highlights COVID-19 containment efforts in meeting

James Kon

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health (MoH) placed strong emphasis on containment, along with community engagement, which has so far managed to avoid a whole-scale ‘lockdown’ in the country.

At the same time, as part of the strategy to keep the MoH and the public well informed, digital solutions are being utilised to monitor and provide real-time situational information to drive policies and support decision-making.

Brunei Darussalam’s approach in the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic was highlighted by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in his speech at The Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting on ‘Strategies To Promote Innovative Solutions (Including Digital Products) and Sharing Information Among Member States’, which took place on Thursday through a virtual meeting.

The minister outlined some of the strategies introduced in Brunei Darussalam, including “public dashboards that provide real-time situation updates and online self-assessment and reporting tool (healthinfo.gov.bn); internal dashboards that monitor real-time situation; medical resources and personal protection equipment (PPE) stocks; contact tracing tools for public health officials; and the use of Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence for decision-making support and determining policy directions.”

He added, “All of the relevant information available has allowed us to create awareness among the public, support public health officials with contact tracing activities, and swiftly improve the country’s health infrastructure to flatten the curve.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the virtual meeting. PHOTO: MOH

“We have released the ‘BruHealth’ app, which incorporates all publicly available tools into a smartphone application for iOS and Android, and added new features including public contact tracing using Bluetooth technology, daily reporting of health status, and allocation of personal colour-coded health codes for the public to allow entry into public facilities and strengthen real-time surveillance.

“For the upcoming future, the ministry will be looking to innovate by implementing strategies to provide further digital solutions for the public.”

Before concluding, the minister suggested that member states share experiences, research and initiatives involving Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics, while working together to utilise digital tools and new technologies in improving healthcare decision-making and overall management in member states.

This year’s was chaired by Gambia’s Minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a speech that focussed on strategies required to curb the spread of COVID-19, and reminded member countries not to overlook other health issues when addressing COVID-19, and to further strengthen actions towards achieving universal health coverage.

The meeting also focussed on several matters such as reviewing and evaluating the progress on COVID-19 disease at the regional and national level; sharing and exchanging the best practices on COVID-19 strategies; solutions and models of COVID-19; identifying priorities for action to be coordinated; giving commitment to work together with partners especially with the WHO to support global response; and acknowledging the importance of coordinating economic response in the recovery and improvement phase, taking into account COVID-19’s non-proportional impact on small countries and the vulnerable, women, youth, displaced persons, vulnerable groups, and others.

In addition, the meeting also touched on a number of technical issues such as universal health coverage and the strengthening of the health system, pool procurement data and medical supplies network management; strengthening national compliance with the International Health Regulations, the perspective of women, youth and vulnerable groups in the planning and response to COVID-19; and the strategies to promote innovative solutions, including digital products and the sharing of information among member countries.