Spread of new strains a cause for concern

The Bruneian authorities handled the COVID-19 pandemic exceptionally well, and must certainly be applauded. Their quick action and effective measures kept everyone living in the country safe throughout the whole of 2020.

However, as Brunei moves into 2021, a very different virus is emerging with the new United Kingdom (UK) strains, one of which has already spread to more than 50 countries and is now becoming the dominant strain around the world.

Containing these new strains may prove to be a challenge for even the most prepared of authorities and this is certainly a cause for concern.

With the emergence of these new strains, have the authorities considered the benefits in an earlier vaccine rollout programme?

With Australia, New Zealand and Singapore all having recent UK strain exposures involving their frontline workers – airport laundry workers, cabin crew, drivers and hotel quarantine workers – it highlights the ability of these new strains to evade even the strictest of measures.

With people continually arriving in the country via land and air, the frontline workers as well as those working in high-risk settings could be exposed to these new and highly transmissible variants, which may spread rapidly through the population and overwhelm the hospitals.

With the worrying development of these new strains, it would be very reassuring if the Bruneian authorities could share the expected vaccination rollout timeline.

A Concerned Resident

It was rather worrying to read in the Bulletin yesterday that the highly dangerous South African COVID-19 strain has reached Brunei. This is concerning, given that a vaccine rollout has not yet started.

I would like to address the authorities and ask what measures have been taken to ensure that this extremely evolved and fast-moving strain has not spread to any frontline workers? Do the authorities plan to test all frontline workers and their family members, airport and quarantine hotel workers, and hospital staff that could possibly have been exposed to this strain in January? Should frontline workers be included in the National Day parade, given that there is a small chance that they may have already contracted the virus?

Stressed Out