Re-imposing restrictions will only slow down the spread of COVID-19 and once lifted, will see soaring cases again.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said this at a press conference yesterday.
The minister said the restrictions were imposed during the second wave to flatten the curve and to not overwhelm the healthcare system as the people were not yet vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “The goal back then was to buy time to procure vaccines and coordinate inoculation.”
He added that with over 94 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, the government is confident with the move to the Endemic Phase.
The minister said other countries with restrictions or lockdowns see cases dropping but once eased, see skyrocketing cases.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “We want what is in the best interest of the country and how we can defend or preserve the life in it. We follow Maqasid Syariah and one of its fundamentals is Maqasid of life.”
The minister said given the high vaccination rate, the number of cases is not important; it is more about the number of cases in Categories 4 and 5.
“That’s the purpose of vaccination – to prevent soaring cases in Categories 4 and 5 crippling the healthcare system. So far, 99 per cent of those infected are in Category 3 and below.”
If restrictions are re-imposed, the minister said, it will take another three to four months to flatten the curve. By then, the cases would skyrocket with more Categories 4 and 5 due to waning protection of the vaccines since many are yet to receive booster shots.
“That is why we should re-open our economy despite spikes in cases. The healthcare system is not overwhelmed,” he said.
One reason in the surges in cases is that Brunei is facing the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron that is known to be more contagious.
The other factor is the wide use of the antigen rapid test (ART).
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said during the second wave, people with mild ailments would be reluctant to queue for PCR tests, thus the number of cases did not reflect the real situation at the time. Now with ARTs, the public can easily get tested when they feel unwell or have been in close contact with a positive case.
“The increase in cases is more pronounced with the wide use of ART and it reflects the actual number of transmissions. This way, we have a more accurate numbers compared to using PCR tests alone,” said the minister.