Brunei curbed COVID-19 with tough restrictions

Brunei curbed COVID-19 with tough restrictions

FORUM Staff

Brunei officials successfully shut down the coronavirus in their country by implementing a series of strict prevention measures.

The nation of more than 459,000 people had reported 141 cases and three deaths through June 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins University website that tracks cases worldwide.

“Brunei compares favorably with Singapore, Taiwan and others considered to have implemented a successful response operation,” according to a study published in the June 2020 edition of the Journal of Global Health, a peer-reviewed medical journal, by a team of Brunei researchers.

On January 31, 2020, Brunei officials restricted travel from Hubei province in China, which contains the city of Wuhan where the virus originated, days earlier than many nations and despite warnings against doing so by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Then Royal Brunei Airlines stopped flights to many more Chinese cities and Hong Kong. On February 1, health officials started temperature screenings at all seven of the nation’s entry points to expand preventive measures beyond those implemented at Brunei International Airport, Brunei’s environmental health services director, Dr. Hjh Anie Hariyani Hj Abdul Rahman, told the Scoop, a New Zealand news site.

Other countries such as Iran and Pakistan “went as far as prioritizing the survival of their relationship with China over preparing for the coronavirus, but Brunei appears to have made a different calculation in the name of public health,” according to an analysis published June 22, 2020, by the online magazine The Diplomat.

Brunei reported its first COVID-19 case March 9, 2020, and increased its prevention measures, making them some of the toughest in Southeast Asia. For example, Brunei quarantined arrivals from abroad and imposed stiff penalties for noncompliance, according to Brunei’s Ministry of Health.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, pictured, took center stage in his country’s battle to stop the spread of the disease, according to The Diplomat.

“A significant public communications strategy was established, and the government has been more transparent and responsive than usual,” with daily live news conferences on TV and social media channels and a dedicated 24-hour hotline for inquiries, the Brunei researchers wrote.

Brunei also implemented a rigorous surveillance, contact tracing and testing strategy. Through June 29, more than 29,220 lab tests had been conducted, according to the Health Ministry. In addition, more than 405,034 individuals had registered for the government’s BruHealth app, which contained individual QR codes. More than 4,200 business had downloaded the free PremiseScan app, which tracks crowd sizes and movement using the QR codes, according to a health ministry news release.

“Containment efforts can be crucial in delaying the onset of widespread community transmission, buying vital time to prepare mitigation measures and build capacity for supporting later stages of the pandemic,” according to the report by the researchers, who were led by Dr. Justin Wong of Brunei’s Ministry of Health Disease Control Division.

Brunei reported no new cases between May 7, 2020, and the end of June 2020. However, the researchers cautioned that Brunei must remain vigilant. “Despite early success, Brunei must prepare for the possibility of sustained community transmission given the escalating global situation,” they wrote. “While the country has advantages including its relative wealth, a very high human development index and universal health coverage, this scenario presents a specific set of challenges for small countries like Brunei.”

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