COVID-19 Op-ed

Communication: The Key to Effective Control of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam

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Dayangku Nurafiqah Fikriyah Binti Pengiran
Muhammad Rafee
Exchange Student in International
& Strategic Studies, Department of International & Strategic
Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University
Malaya
Student of English Studies, Department of English
Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University
Brunei Darussalam

On 9 March 2020, the small sultanate nation of Brunei
Darussalam recorded its first case of COVID-19, where a local man with a
travel history to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was tested positive for the
contagious virus. Although active preventive and precautionary measures had
taken place before, the government of Brunei continues to step up and show
robust efforts and constant resilience in combating COVID-19 in the country.
As of 11 May 2020, 141 COVID-19 cases were detected in Brunei resulting in 1
death, 134 recoveries and 6 cases still under treatment located at the
National Isolation Center, Tutong. (Kon, 2020)With that being said, as a
country known for its close-knit community, access to reliable and accurate
information is vital in order to maintain peace and encourage its citizens to
cooperate with the government to fight this pandemic. Unfortunately, even
Brunei is experiencing and are unable to escape the spread of fake news that
tries to stir worries within itself. So how does the government of Brunei and
its people tackle this global problem of misinformation and reduce widespread
panic?One of the highly impacted actions taken by the Ministry of Health
(MoH), under His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s Government, was to
conduct daily live press conferences to give updates regarding the situation
and also for other ministries (e.g. Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of
Education and Ministry of Religious Affairs) to announce new changes and
orders in the country. National television news (RTB Radio Television Brunei)
and local independent newspapers (Borneo Bulletin, The Scoop, Media Permata)
come together and brought voices of concerns from the people and get straight
to the point answers from the ministers themselves.In a nutshell, it can be
agreed that the reason Brunei did not opt for chaotic lockdowns as seen in
other Southeast Asian countries is that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has been
very transparent and did not try to suppress or hide any news cases (Khan,
2020). The health minister also urged people to refrain from spreading
content that is false and misleading and breaches the privacy of the patients
(Bandial and Bakar, 2020.)  When the first Covid-19 case in Brunei
occurred, they spared no detail in sharing the necessary information and
facts to the people as shown in the excerpt from MoH’s heavily detailed press
release below:“The first case is a local male aged 53 years old.
The patient travelled together with three of his friends to Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia and arrived back in Brunei on March 3, 2020. His symptoms began with
feeling unwell with body ache, fever and cough on March 7, 2020 and he
presented at the Emergency Department, Hospital Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak
Saleha the next day. He was tested and found positive for COVID-19 and is
currently receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre, Tutong. The
test result is currently undergoing additional verification in line with
guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). At present, the patient is
currently in a stable condition. The Ministry of Health has responded
immediately to detect and conduct contact tracing to all of the patient’s
contact including family members and three (3) of his friends who was on the
same trip as the patient. All close contacts are undergoing quarantine for 14
days. All contacts involved will also undergo laboratory tests to detect the
COVID-19 infection… The Ministry of Health seeks the public cooperation to
act responsibly and avoid spreading any information that is misleading and
untrue, as well as to respect the privacy of the patient and his family
members.”
(Government of Brunei, Ministry of Health, 2020)This
type of media coverage that is more focused on facts has become relatively
successful in ensuring the people have the real information about what’s
going on. (Holmes, Henrich, Hancock, and Lestou, 2009) Other than press
conferences and press releases, the Government of Brunei is also proactively
spreading reliable information on its official websites and social media
(Instagram, Twitter), where daily news and regulations for the new norm is
posted and accessible to the public.Such various means of communication and
spread of information helps not only in thwarting the rise of fake news, but
also to assure the people that the government is determined to fight this
pandemic and in turn gain support from the public. Effective communication
then shows that both the government and people of Brunei value credibility
and seek hard facts, therefore ultimately avoid uncontrollable panic. There
is still a long way to go for the country of Brunei Darussalam to completely
eradicate Covid-19 and until then, we remain vigilant in becoming socially
responsible together.References:Bandial,
A. & Bakar, R. H. A. (2020, March 11). Five more test positive for
COVID-19, bringing national tally to 6. The Scoop, p. 1.
Retrieved from https://thescoop.co/2020/03/11/five-more-test-positive-for-covid-19-bringing-national-tally-to-6/Government
of Brunei, Ministry of Health. (2020, March 9). Detection of the
First Case of Covid-19 Infection in Brunei Darussalam
. Retrieved
from http://www.moh.gov.bn/Shared%20Documents/2019%20ncov/press%20releases/FINAL%20Press%20Release%20(eng)%20-%20First%20Case%20COVID-19%20in%20Brunei%20Darussalam%20(2).pdfHolmes,
B. J., Henrich, N., Hancock, S., & Lestou, V. (2009) Communicating
with the public during health crises: experts’ experiences and opinions,
Journal of Risk Research, 12(06), 793-807, DOI:
10.1080/13669870802648486Khan, A.U. (2020, April 18). Brunei’s Response To
COVID-19. The ASEAN Post, p. 1. Retrieved from https://theaseanpost.com/article/bruneis-response-covid-19Kon,
J. (2020, May 12). COVID-19: Fourth day in a row with no new case.
Borneo Bulletin, p. 1. Retrieved from https://borneobulletin.com.bn/covid-19-fourth-day-in-a-row-with-no-new-case/

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