Monday, April 22, 2024
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Planning for good health in the New Year

James Kon

After years of uncertainty and minimal living under restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, life in Brunei Darussalam is gradually moving back to normal.

The country entered the endemic phase of its COVID-19 pandemic fight in the middle of 2022, with one of the world’s highest vaccination rates (103.7 per cent with two doses and 79 per cent with three), which helped to keep the number of critical care cases of the coronavirus relatively low.

In an interview with the Bulletin, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said everything is steadily improving, especially for small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the pandemic. “Alhamdulillah, we are grateful for the full re-opening of the country’s economy and borders,” he said, reflecting on Brunei Darussalam’s COVID-19 experiences in 2022. “People can communicate face-to-face again, while schoolchildren will benefit from social interactions of attending in-person classes,” he said, adding that overall, it also benefits mental health.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said the health system during the pandemic coped relatively well. “We are able to emerge from the pandemic with minimal impact, compared to many other countries,” he said.

However, COVID-19 cases will continue to be present, therefore the government will continue to provide vaccinations against the virus, said the minister.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar; and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah at the Epidemic Intelligence and Response Unit, EVYD Campus. PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham during a COVID-19 press conference, which was held daily at the height of the pandemic in the country

With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, the Ministry of Health looks towards preparing for other health challenges in the future, including other pandemics as well as tackling prevailing non-communicable diseases in the country.

It launched a hub for public health intelligence and data at the EVYD Campus in Jerudong, which sought to utilise technology, data analytics, research and policy planning to better improve health in the country.

The Epidemic Intelligence and Response Unit is housed at the hub alongside various other units, functioning as a surveillance centre to monitor the nationwide spread of diseases.

The Epidemic Intelligence and Response Unit’s surveillance centre leverages on a recently-developed automated communicable disease surveillance system, linked with clinical and laboratory data from Bru-HIMS, to track and monitor the emergence and spread of over 50 infectious diseases in real-time.

Meanwhile, the ministry and Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Centre for Advanced Research (CARe) are conducting the 3rd National Health and Nutritional Status Survey, which aims to assess the health and nutritional status and dietary practices of the population.

The survey will look at non-communicable disease risk factors in over 5,000 households, and covers infant and young children feeding, maternal and reproductive health, fruit and vegetables intake, tobacco usage, alcohol consumption and physical activity.