BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has blocked the entry of foreign visitors from Iran and Italy as both countries have seen a recent surge in number of COVID-19 cases.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said any foreign visitor who has been to Iran and Italy in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter the country, including transit passengers.

The travel restrictions were expanded following Brunei’s existing ban on foreign travellers from China’s Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces that was put in place on January 30.

The two countries were added to the travel ban list following the government’s review on their COVID-19 risks, which take into account the profile of infection, transmission as well as local situation.

As of March 5, Italy had the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities outside of China with 148 deaths while the death toll of the outbreak in Iran reached 108.

The Ministry of Health said Brunei has yet to detect any coronavirus cases after the disease affected 93,865 people from 86 countries and territories.

The two Brunei nationals who were evacuated from Wuhan – China’s epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – have tested negative for the COVID-19 pathogen and completed their quarantine on February 22.

With the upcoming school holidays from March 15-29, the ministry urged members of the public to avoid travelling abroad.

In the travel advisory, the government divided the coronavirus-affected countries into four categories based on their risk level.

This handout photo taken on March 4, 2020 from Korean Air shows a worker checking his protective gear as he prepares to spray disinfectant on an airplane at Incheon International Airport in Incheon. Bruneians who return from South Korea are now required to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days. Photo: AFP

The public were advised to defer non-essential travel to the countries listed in categories A, B and C.

Category A is for countries showing sustained spread of infection including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

It is compulsory for Brunei citizens and permanent residents to undergo self-isolation at home for 14 days after returning from countries listed in category A.

Self-isolation means segregating oneself from joining any activities involving the public and they are prohibited from leaving the house or receiving guests during the 14-day quarantine, except to seek medical treatment.

Category B includes countries showing limited infections, but large-scale clusters have been reported. Countries under this category are France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

Category C comprises countries that show local spread of infection such as Macao, Malaysia (excluding Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan), Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam.

Individuals arriving from countries listed in categories B and C are required to undergo self-monitoring without having to isolate themselves from others.

Self-monitoring means keeping an eye on one’s health for 14 days without isolation and to seek immediate medical attention at any health centre if they develop symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Category D groups countries that report isolated or imported cases.

The ministry said those who are travelling abroad are advised to take precautionary measures and prioritise personal hygiene practices to avoid any risk of infection.

“This especially applies to those who are at high risk such as those suffering from chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease and cancer), as well as the elderly and smokers,” the statement read.

Anyone who requires details on self-isolation can contact the Ministry of Health’s Disease Control Division at 2380316 or 2380318 during office hours.

The latest information on countries listed in each category can be also acquired by contacting the health advice line at 2381380 and 2381383 during office hours or by visiting the Ministry of Health’s website.