BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The 36th National Day parade will proceed at Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) on February 23, with officials saying the public event does not pose health risks as Brunei has yet to record any coronavirus cases.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Director of Environmental Health Services Dr Hjh Anie Hariyani Hj Abdul Rahman said there are no restrictions on mass gatherings unless there have been confirmed cases of the coronavirus, recently named COVID-19.

“At the moment, the risk is zero. In the event of a situation that requires the Ministry of Health to make certain recommendations, we will do so and we will do it immediately,” she said.

The government has put in place preventive measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak, including banning the entry of people who have recently visited three Chinese provinces — Hubei, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

Dr Hjh Anie said restrictions on large public events will only be put in place if there are widespread cases of COVID-19 in Brunei.

In 2009, Brunei banned mass gatherings following the spread of H1N1. At its peak, there were 775 recorded cases of H1N1 in Brunei, with two deaths reported.

The director urged anyone showing signs of influenza to avoid going out in public or attending the National Day celebrations.

Permanent Secretary of Culture, Youth and Sports Pg Mohammad Amirrizal Pg Hj Mahmud said more than 26,000 people will take part in the National Day procession, including 7,000 performers.

Speaking on the possibility of postponing the parade, Pg Mohammad Amirrizal said the relevant authorities will take action if the situation changes.

“For the time being, there are no changes, so we will proceed as it is. As per MoH’s recommendation, everyone is urged to maintain a high level of personal hygiene,” he said.

Dr Hjh Anie said the Environmental Health Services Department will continue to monitor the situation in Brunei and other parts of the world on a daily basis.

“This is a health issue, but we are one government and we have been cooperating and in constant communication with the other ministries and agencies.

“Please be reassured that in the event of a situation where there is a need for a specific action to be taken, we will communicate it immediately,” she added.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and members of the royal family are expected to attend the National Day parade.

This year’s celebrations will be retaining the theme of “Menjayakan Wawasan Negara” or “Realising the National Vision”.

Environmental NGO Green Brunei is also organising two campaigns –  “Bandarku Bersih” and “Bandarku Bebas Botol Plastik” as part of National Day celebrations.

The Bandarku Bersih or “My Clean City” campaign is aimed at encouraging people to work together to keep the capital clean, said LegCo member and Green Brunei co-founder YB Khairunnisa Hj Ash’ari.

The campaign is recruiting volunteers to support the Municipal Department efforts to clean up Taman SOAS after National Day celebrations.

To reduce plastic bottle use, Green Brunei will also provide water dispenser stations around Bandar Seri Begawan so that the public can refill their own reusable bottles.

A map showing locations of water dispensers on National Day.

The water dispensers will be located at five locations – next to the TAIB building, in front of the BIBD headquarters and Jalan Pretty.

Two water dispenser stations will also be placed at the Royal Wharf.