BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health have identified four sites that will potentially be turned into “monitoring centres” or temporary quarantine shelters for suspected coronavirus cases.

The makeshift centres are located at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium’s Games Village Complex; SEAMEO Voctech Regional Centre in Gadong; National Service Programme’s Training Camp in Batu Apoi, Temburong, and Government Rest House in Kuala Belait.

During a visit to inspect the Games Village Complex on Saturday, Home Affairs Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the monitoring centres can accommodate over 1,100 people.

No coronavirus cases have been recorded in Brunei thus far, but the country has stepped up precautionary measures including banning the entry of travellers from China’s Hubei province. All travellers returning from China have been ordered to undergo self-isolation for 14 days.

The death toll from coronavirus has reached 722, while the number of infections in China has risen to 34,546.

At least 24 countries have confirmed coronavirus cases, including Singapore with a tally of 40 – the most number of cases outside of mainland China.

Home Affairs minister YB Pehin Dr Hj Abu Bakar tours the Games Village complex at the Hassanal Bolkiah stadium, which will be utilised as a monitoring centre in the wake of the global spread of the novel coronavirus. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Director of Environmental Health Services Dr Hjh Anie Hariyani Hj Abdul Rahman said the monitoring centres, which can quarantine a large number of people, are part of the government’s plan to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On January 30, the government ordered Bruneian citizens and permanent residents who have visited China recently to undergo self-isolation for 14 days.

As of press time, 158 people are under self-quarantine in Brunei. Nineteen have already completed their isolation and been cleared –they comprise Bruneians studying in China, travellers as well as Hengyi Industries workers.

In an interview with The Scoop, Dr Hjh Anie said most Bruneians will likely undergo self-isolation at home, but the government has to provide monitoring centres in case their homes are not suitable for quarantine.

“There are also cases where foreign travellers entering Brunei are suspected of having the virus or have been in contact with confirmed cases, they will be placed at the monitoring centres,” the director added.

Whereas the National Isolation Centre in Tutong is for people who have confirmed cases of infectious disease, or have recently been to Wuhan, China – ground zero of the outbreak.

Dr Hjh Anie added: “Those undergoing self-isolation are usually [in good health], and do not have the symptoms but we want to make sure that within the 14 days they don’t develop symptoms.

“It’s important to have self-isolation and quarantine is so that if an individual develop symptoms they can be given medical attention quickly.”

Two Bruneians were directly evacuated from Wuhan on Friday and arrived in the sultanate on a Royal Brunei Airlines flight at 2.45am on Saturday.

They were identified as 26-year-old student Abd Najib Hj Abd Ladi and a 40-year-old man who was visiting Wuhan as a tourist.

Dr Hjh Anie said the two Bruneians have been quarantined at the National Isolation Centre because they were repatriated from the epicentre of the pandemic.

“They are well, and do not show any symptoms at the moment,” she added.

The director also called on Bruneians not to discriminate against people of Chinese descent following reports of anti-Chinese sentiment over coronavirus fears in other countries.

She said there had been incidents where tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan reported not feeling welcome in Brunei since the outbreak began.