Archive for August, 2021

Coping with the “new norm”

Written by Rano Iskandar on . Posted in Social News

His Majesty the Sultan delivering a titah earlier this week

His Majesty the Sultan’s titah. His Majesty shared that for over a year, Brunei Darussalam was safe and free of infections. We have no neglected to be grateful to Allah the Almighty for this blessings as we are aware that nothing will take place without His consent and will. However, on August 2021, we were caught off guard by local transmissions involving seven individuals and the following days, the numbers came rising. 

His Majesty said that no misfortune will occur unless through committing sins, and it will not subside unless we seek forgiveness from Allah the Almighty and repent for their sins. 

“If we wash our hands with water or sanitiser, we should wash our sins by seeking forgiveness and repentance.” 

“We, as a people of faith, still hope that Allah the Almighty will grant our prayers and good deeds to cleanse Brunei from the coronavirus pandemic.”


 

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr. Hj Md Isham Jaafar, Minister of Health receiving 100,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, from the government of Republic of Singapore, represented by His Excellency Heng Aik Yeow, High Commissioner of Republic of Singapore to Brunei Darussalam two nights ago
A new vaccination center at Institute of Health Science at Universiti Brunei Darussalam
The frontliners at the UBD vaccination center



Vaccination centers. Alhamdullilah, more centers are opening up, the latest being at Institute of Health Sciences at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. This was publicly announced yesterday at the press conference. This is welcoming news as the demand for vaccines have surged after the second wave hit Brunei hard. It was also made public that Brunei received 100,000 doses of Moderna vaccine which was donated by the government of the Republic of Singapore. The contribution by Singapore reflects the special relations with Brunei Darussalam and their continued support in fight against the virus. 

Almost 70% of the population in Singapore are vaccinated and this is what Brunei wants to achieve before year end. So far almost 40% of Brunei has at least 1 dose of the vaccination while only less than 15% are fully vaccinated. So insyaAllah by year end, we can reach 70% and that’s also waiting for the arrival of the few hundred thousand doses of Pfizer to Brunei Darussalam which could be the by final quarter of 2021. 



Cases still on the rise. There’s no determining on where the peak will be. It has been 10 days and the cases have subsided. Instead we have at least 20 clusters related to the positive cases with Chung Hua KB cluster being the highest followed by Champion 7 cluster.

Yang Berhormat Dato Dr. Isham Jaafar, Minister of Health, shared that they will need at least one week of data from the BruHealth to study the pattern and see how they can better prepare to handle the current situation. I do hope the investment of the BruHealth app pays off in learning such trends. It is still a great app, nonetheless, especially with the implementation of the your BruHIMS record and also the effectiveness of the BruHealth if you keep your bluetooth activated at all times. 



Digital Quarantine Order. Now this is a very new thing for all those residing in Brunei Darussalam and quite a few will still be clueless or unsure (I can’t blame them). The first day of the launch of the Digital Quarantine Order was a few glitches where some users where given the QO on their BruHealth without any context since he or she wasn’t even a primary or secondary contact with a +ve patient. It seemed to be resolved and stable as we speak but there are still a handful of people unsure the mechanism or instructions required once they received an QO on his or her app. 

Basically once you receive the QO, you are required to undergo self-isolation at your said address. The app also features a tracking of your whereabouts (bluetooth must be activated) and you can also request for food deliveries. Because of the tracing feature, should the person with an QO violate by straying more than 100 metres from their home, the tracker will notify the relevant authorities. Such offenders can be fined BND 5,000 or even be prosecuted in Court and fine up to BND 10,000. So yea, this is considered a serious matter indeed should one breach the Quarantine Order. Now I wonder if anyone has breached the QO. 

So peeps, it’s important to get keep using your BruHealth app now with the second wave kicking us even harder. We have been slacking indeed when using the BruHealth app and taking for granted of our situation. I am also guilty of it sometimes for not scanning the QR Code when entering a premise. I believe that if the majority had been very discipline in using the QR code for the past few months, it would have help the contact tracing even easier when the second wave hit. We are just one or two steps behind and I do hope we are able to contain the spread. If we could just turn back time…. 

Endemic stage. This was a question I raised during the Press Conference (15/8/2021). When replied, Yang Berhormat Dato said, “We have to live with. It’s in the population just like H1N1.” So it’s important for the country to be fully immunized or the aim is for Brunei Darussalam to reach 70% for vaccination. He aims to reach a pace of 10,000 vaccination per day once the new stock of vaccines arrive within this week. 

It will be good news for Brunei if we treat the situation as endemic rather than pandemic so we can get on with our “new normal” life. I assume there will still be mandatory to wear mask but it will be less worrying once we reached herd immunity and protecting the community. Business will hopefully run as normal and it will help to kick start the economy back into first gear. 



Lacking manpower. This is the true test of time for Brunei Darussalam. The thought of the existing National Isolation Centre was already considered a privileged and always on standby should any cases sprout out. Little did we know the community spread has exhausted the capacity at the National Isolation Centre, the logistics at the vaccination centers and even the hotline at 148. There’s also shortage of resources for transportation of the positive cases who were supposedly to be transported to the National Isolation Centre. Even the Ministry of Health needs more manpower in the “red zone” area which majority of the volunteer isn’t taking any risk which is understandable. 

I’m sure by the second or hopefully by the third week, everything will be in order and the cases will just keep appearing every now and then until we can contain the spread. The related government agencies are on top of things to strategize on how to run the operations at a smooth manner. The 2nd wave have really caught us off guard and no one could have predicted the high number of infection that has taken Brunei by storm. Other countries are already experience 3rd or 4th wave of infection. We have enjoyed far too long (15-month) and it was a matter of time before the bubble burst. 

Currently, according to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, we have quite a number of volunteers who signed up to help as Ministry of Health needed all the help they can. Already around 4,000 registered under the Youth Volunteer Group as of August 20 and since the second wave, a total of 400 youth has signed up. Though 400 are active and on duty at designated locations, they still need more volunteers. 

The volunteers also have transported food ration to the 840 homes that are under Quarantine Order to accommodate more than 5,000 individuals. Volunteers can sign up through www.sukarelawanbelia.com or through the Mengalinga App or their hotline 891 3762. 


Behind the scenes at 148. Image by The Scoop



Contacting 148. It’s good to know that the hotline number 148 has increased in manpower, from 7 people to 20 people, but the number of call-ins is still considered very high (in the region of 600 calls or more daily). Even their whatsapp/telegram line 730095 is too overwhelming with thousands of messages to go through.  Hence Ministry of Health are still looking for volunteers to help with the hotline segment.

It’s also known that the Brunei Red Crescent is also assisting the 148 hotline and you can contact the following numbers – 826 0420, 826 0320, 826 0360, 826 0370 and 826 0390 from 8am to 8pm. 

Or you can also contact Talian Darussalam 123 or whatsapp them at 833 3123 or you can email them at info@123.com.bn 

Come to think of it, I feel that I am also playing a role of “148” as I do share information to those who are seeking for answers and I will answer accordingly with the knowledge being shared by the Ministry of Health. So can you imagine those behind the line, constantly dedicating their time to answer any queries. This takes a lot of mental strength as they will have to deal with different types of personalities. So please, do have compassion for them and they are just humans and doing to the best of their capabilities with the resources given. Just have to be patient. Even a friend of mine made 192 calls to 148 before she successfully got hold of a person for her vaccination slot. So keep trying and don’t give up 😀 

A tip: Try to call before midnight or after midnight. Chances getting through is higher indeed. Good luck and thank you for your understanding. 

2nd Wave is NO JOKE

Written by Rano Iskandar on . Posted in Youth, community



New clusters: It’s time to pull our socks up. Preach what we say and not for the sake of saying it. Our habits must be re-programmed once again to be more vigilant and be more alert. Every single move or step, if miscalculated, can be catastrophic. It’s the time to be “gagah” as quoted by Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham bin Hj Jaafar, the Minister of Health. 

Yesterday was no surprise to see the numbers increasing from Day 1 of the second wave and on upward trend. Day 1 saw 7 local cases, Day 2 saw 15 local cases and Day 3 (yesterday) hit a high 38 local cases. 

KB Chung Hwa cluster is the highest with 29 positive patients and this cluster has yet to show signs of decreasing in numbers as the swab tests are still waiting for results. The KB Chung Hwa cluster is related to a 16 year old boy (case 363). A new cluster, ABCi, is also being identified where there are 5 cases while cluster Total has 4 new cases. The Starlodge cluster has no new cases. The #362 case has yet to identify the source of the infection and still undergoing investigation. 




The vaccination and swab centres are overwhelmed ever since the second wave. The Ministry of Health needed more man power and especially the volunteers to once again help to ease the logistic nightmare that was quite apparent such as longer queues with limited social distancing. Last night, private securities have been deployed to help with the queue system and ushering at the populated centres and clinics. So that’s an improvement. But MOH will definitely need more help from the volunteers to help with the overwhelming numbers present at the respective centres. 

Now there are newer tighter control measures:

  • Any mass/social gathering is not allowed 
  • 15 pax allowed for funeral arrangements 
  • 5 pax for “Akad Nikah” ceremony
  • For elderly parents living separately from other family members, only 2 family members are allowed to visit the parents at a time
  • You can hike or jog individually or in 2s if they happen to live in the same household
  • All officers and staff (government and private sector) are required to Work-From-Home (WFH). Only essential staff are allowed to work in their physical space. 
  • Front-liners (health sector, security sector, hospitality sector, transportation sector) 
  • Daily necessities sector (food, retail business)
  • Facilities and utilities sector (electricity, water, telecommunications) 
  • Officers at the border and entrances to Brunei Darussalam
  • Oil and gas and downstream sectors
  • Development sectors
  • Agri-food and forestry sectors
  • Leaving your home without any significant purpose is not allowed
  • Only two people from one family are allowed to buy daily necessities




     

Price of Masks: This is quite subjective. Not many are aware on the  different prices of masks. Let’s put it this way. If you go visit a fabric shop like YMRM Galleria, you will see the same colour of kain baju melayu at different sections. But… but… you will notice the prices are different from each other because of the quality. Same goes for masks. 

I know there was one particular brand that was stocked up by Hua Ho what was priced at $120 per box. Then again, Yang Berhormat Dato Isham said that this particular mask was legit and perhaps one of the highest grade quality mask because it’s N95. That price alone is considered reasonable for N95 standard. Whereas the rest of the masks in the market are of different qualities. 

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr. Hj Amin Liw bin Abdullah, the Second Minister of Finance and Economy addressed that there won’t be a shortage of masks in Brunei. Even so, there is no shortages of mask regionally and we are able to import should we are running low on stocks. The same can be said for hand santizers. 

But I do hear reports that some shops deliberately hike up their masks prior to the second wave announcement. For this, it is considered unacceptable practice. If you know of any, you can forward that to me and I can get the relevant agency to deal with them. 

Stay Home: Once again, I would like to advice everyone to stay home, stay calm and stay safe. Don’t forget to wear your mask if you’re out and about!! Let’s hope for the curve to subside. We can do this 😀 

Surreal

Written by Rano Iskandar on . Posted in health, Social News

Questions and Answers session offline after the press conference with the three Yang Berhormats. Thank you for your time and leadership.

It feels surreal. That’s the only word to describe. I have always remained optimistic on the situation in Brunei Darussalam. So many praises (and some envies) from my neighbouring friends on how we are living our lives on a normal basis – no masks, little attention to social distancing, mass gatherings, crowded malls etc. Basically we are enjoying in our own majestic bubble. It came to a point that I sometimes feel that we are invincible to the pandemic. 

After more than 15 months of being free from local transmission, 7 new local cases were reported yesterday. The first five, Case 340 to Case 344, were linked to a hotel used for quarantine purposes. It was known that the 5 cases had no travel history in recent months and there is a likelihood this particular cluster has been exposed to one of the imported case recently. 

Now here is where it got me curious. The other cases (case 345 & case 346) are isolated local cases and the source of the infection has yet to be identified and still under investigation. One is believed to be from a school and the other one from a district. Once the Ministry of Health have the correct information, they will definitely share accordingly. 

Followers watching it live to IG LIVE during the press conference yesterday
The single tick means the person has received its first dose of the vaccine while two ticks mean the person has received two doses of the vaccine
It is yet to be known the source of the infection from Case 345 and Case 346

According to Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dj Hj Mohd Isham bin Hj Jaafar, there is a possibility that there was a breach of standard operating procedures (SOPs) which led to the new local transmissions. 

With the new local transmissions and 3 new clusters, with the consent of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, there will be control measures for the next two weeks to combat the local transmissions. These measures are something we were already accustomed to back in 2020. 

Here are the following control measures  :

  • Mass gatherings are capped at 30 pax.
  • Mosques, suraus, and places of worship to be closed.
  • Online learning will commenced for schools, other educational institutions, tuition classes, music classes and special needs classes
  • Restaurants will be limited to takeaway and delivery, with no dine-in allowed.
  • Recreational centres including gyms, cinemas, internet cafés, playgrounds, leisure centres, museums and galleries to be closed.
  • Beauty salons and barber shops to be closed.
  • Businesses have been urged to implement a work-from-home policy (business continuity plan), allowing only essential workers on physical premises.
  • Masks are now mandatory and to be worn indoor at public places and also outdoor 

Attending the press conference yesterday was already surreal. It was like waiting to sit for my final exams and not knowing which questions will popped up. I was running numbers in my head. Will it be 2 new cases, 5 new cases? I was just feeling anxious as everyone else. Even the false information of the poster was circulated around to stir more unnecessary drama. 

All I can say is I just felt overwhelmed with the unverified and verified information yesterday. Last time, it took a toll on me and I wasn’t in a good shape, mentally, emotionally and physically. The new wave have taught me something and this time, I feel that I am able to handle the pressure once again as a source of information to the public. 

It’s beyond our control that the re-instated control measures have already disrupted wedding functions, running/sporting events, expos and many more. Even my upcoming B3 Doubles Tennis Invitational Charity Cup 2021 is put on hold until further notice. With all these setbacks, the highest priority is the safety and health of our nation and nothing is bigger than this. I do hope those affected can understand the latest development and we should be very blessed and appreciative on how the Brunei Government especially the Ministry of Health have been championing this cause to combat the spread since Day 1. 

I have been getting reports from witnesses that the people are still visible at crowded places and some are not even wearing masks or adhering to the SOPs. Then again, this latest development was just less than a day old so let’s hope the business retailers step up their game and enforce the SOPs accordingly for the safety of the public. I believe the Ministry of Health will carry out “Operasi Merati” on business premises and take stern actions to those who don’t comply to the SOPs set by the Ministry of Health. It’s also being shared that the Royal Brunei Police Force are also monitoring in public places and setting up road blocks to remind people to wear masks.

I urged all my friends and families to stay home for now or if you do go out to adhere to the SOPs from the Ministry of Health. I alone cannot fight this but with all of us, with the same vision, we can fight the spread and save the nation. 

Contact RA

ranoadidas (a) gmail.com
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Contact: +6738677773

About RA

A blogger since 2002, using platforms from blogspot, joomla and now currently wordpress. A readership that stands on average of 20,000 visits per month. Also on active on social media platform on IG, Facebook and Snapchat (@ranoadidas)

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