Brunei has reported only 183 Covid-19 cases. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Brunei has received its first batch of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine donated by China and was reviewing its distribution vaccination program amid preparations to inoculate its people from the pandemic.
Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Haji Erywan thanked China, saying the inoculations were considered a gift from the Chinese people and reflected the traditional friendship and deep mutual trust between the two countries.
Brunei, a tiny sultanate on the island of Borneo with a population of just 434,000, has fared better than most Southeast Asian countries with 183 confirmed cases of Covid-19, three deaths and 175 recoveries.
Shortly after the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, the Brunei government initiated a four-stage de-escalation plan with a budget of US$10.5 million designed to meet viral outbreaks and emergencies.
Erywan said the donation would enable his country to overcome the pandemic and was an opportunity to promote bilateral ties and take China-ASEAN relations to a new level.
Brunei is the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which recently marked the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue.
Yu Hong, Chinese ambassador to Brunei, said China's vaccine assistance to Brunei "fully reflected the high level of the China-Brunei strategic cooperative partnership and the true friendship between the two peoples."
"China is providing vaccine aid to 53 developing countries, and we have exported and are exporting vaccines to 22 countries,” she said, according to a dispatch from the official Xinhua news service.
“China also actively participates in the WHO-led Covax and decided to provide 10 million doses of vaccines to the program, mainly to meet the demand of developing countries."
Analysts said Brunei’s health policies had proved effective, most notably the state’s capacity and public services, which were made potent by revenues generated through its oil and gas industries.
“Brunei also showed policy courage by banning inbound travelers from Hubei province, risking China’s wrath,” Nadia Azierah Hamdan and William Case, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia, wrote in a research paper published late January.
They also said the government was quick to react, adding: “On February 1, officials began to screen arrivals from all countries, taking temperature checks at entry points.”
“To this end, Brunei’s Ministry of Health quickly adopted World Health Organization regulations, including social distancing and self-isolation, as well as contact tracing through the Sultanate’s Bruhealth application to which some 90 per cent of citizens subscribe.”
Vaccines across Southeast Asia are being acquired through a combination of government funds, donations from local businessmen, Chinese and Western largesse and investment deals with Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.
But the rollout remains in its infancy and is a massive undertaking as governments plan to inoculate up to 70 percent of the region’s 648 million people against Covid-19.
Cambodia received its first batch of 600,000 Sinopharm doses on Feb. 7 and began its inoculation drive on Feb. 10, with the ruling elites and military personnel receiving their first jabs.