The road to recovery

Azlan Othman

It’s been two years since the onset of COVID-19 and measures have been implemented to ward off the threats. According to the Global COVID-19 Index (GCI), Brunei Darussalam is ranked 14th globally and third regionally after Singapore and Malaysia out of 180 countries in terms of pandemic efforts.

The success of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme has been instrumental in achieving a recovery rating of four with a recovery index of 78.68.

China ranks first with a recovery rating of five and with a recovery index of 91.23, followed by Japan and Singapore.

The GCI was developed with input from various international bodies and the World Health Organization (WHO). Its methodology tracks recovery and historical severity using data since January 2020.

As of January 12, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said Brunei recorded 15,750 COVID-19 cases and 15,381 patients had recovered.

The COVID-19 situation in the Sultanate is less severe than that of other countries.

The Universiti Brunei Darussalam COVID-19 Vaccination Centre. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Nevertheless, people in the country must continue to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) including wearing face masks, scanning BruHealth code for tracing purposes, practising physical distancing, sanitising and washing hands regularly as well as avoiding crowded areas, said the minister.

The Sultanate first detected the virus in March 2020. Soon after, it detected no locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 for 457 days. On August 7, 2021, the nation saw the re-emergence of cases, which set off the second wave of the pandemic in the country.

Currently, the vaccination programme is still being carried out at several centres nationwide. As of January 12, 94.6 per cent of the populace had received the first dose of vaccine, while 93.7 per cent had received two doses and 30.1 per cent had received the third dose.

Delta and Omicron variants have put the nation in a remarkably different situation from the previous year as these variants are highly transmissible, although Omicron causes milder symptoms.

According to medical experts, vaccinations have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective against the coronavirus, and constitute the best way to combat the pandemic, through enhancing immunity, minimising risks of infection and reducing hospitalisations.

The government announced the National COVID-19 Recovery Plan Framework on October 25, 2021, which holds the objective of ensuring a safe transition and a stable situation with minimal disruption to the daily activities of the community, as was the case during the Influenza H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

Aside from that, the framework could also help revitalise the economy and businesses, alongside safeguarding the security, peace and the well-being of COVID-affected citizens and residents.

The stay-at-home directive which has been in place since early October last year, is an additional measure in curbing the spread of COVID-19, through instructing people to remain in their homes.

The Early Endemic Phase under the National COVID-19 Recovery Plan Framework will be extended for another month starting tomorrow until February 14, said 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 on January 10, adding that the stay-at-home directive will be shortened – from midnight to 4am.

“This extension of the Early Endemic Phase is made in consideration of the recent rise in COVID-19 infections,” said the minister.

He said the government will continue to monitor the spread of the virus, and will ensure that appropriate measures are taken in the interest of the citizens and residents.

He added that the extension will also allow more time for the government to ensure that COVID-19 cases as well as bed occupancy rates at isolation centres remain low, along with increasing coverage of vaccine booster doses, and subsequently, the provision of vaccinations for children aged five to 11.

“The government is also grateful to the public for their receptiveness to the booster programme,” said the minister, adding that this is made possible with the cooperation of all parties, especially citizens and residents of Brunei who have been complying with health guidelines and continuing to support the government’s efforts by jointly shouldering responsibilities.

“The government once again extends its appreciation to all for their collective efforts during the second wave of the COVID-19 in the country,” said the minister.

He also warned the public against complacency and to continue to adhere to SOPs, such as physical distancing, respecting venue capacity limits, wearing face masks, maintaining cleanliness, and mandatory use of the BruHealth app, adding that the use of antigen rapid test (ART) prior to entering premises is highly encouraged.