MoH issues new workplace guidelines for vulnerable groups
10.10pm | April 11, 2020
The Ministry of Health has issued updated guidelines for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 epidemic, addressing the potential risks to operations and employees in the workplace, while also suggesting alternative working arrangements.
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MoE seeks donations of electronic devices for online learning
8.09pm | April 11, 2020
The Ministry of Education is calling for donations of electronic devices, such as new or used computers, laptops and tablets, to support its online learning initiative and provide equal learning opportunities for underprivileged students.
With schools suspending classroom learning since March 30 as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, more than 52,000 students in government schools have been forced to learn from home.
The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry will be refurbishing donated devices for students in need.
If you would like to donate read the full story here for more details.
MoH records zero new cases, total number of recoveries cross 100 mark
6.16pm | April 11, 2020
The health ministry reported no new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, while 104 people have recovered from the coronavirus since the first case was detected on March 9.
Delivering his daily update, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the COVID-19 tally stays at 136, with 31 patients still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre.
Two critically ill patients are kept on life support.
The minister advised the public to continue taking preventive measures as “the risk of the virus transmission is still high” despite registering zero new cases.
Brunei reported five straight days without new COVID-19 cases before one student who returned from abroad tested positive for the virus on Friday.
However, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham said the government will not reset the 28-day countdown of zero new cases as the latest case was imported unless the patient has spread the disease to close contacts in Brunei.
The minister previously said Brunei may consider relaxing some restrictions after 28 consecutive days of zero new cases, but this would also depend on the COVID-19 situation elsewhere in the world.
About 40 percent of the country’s total number of COVID-19 infections are imported cases.
One in 47 Brunei residents has taken the swab test for coronavirus after 9,637 tests were conducted to date.
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COVID-19 tally reaches 136 with one new case
5.56pm | April 10, 2020
Brunei confirmed one new coronavirus case on Friday, interrupting the past five consecutive days without new infections. The national COVID-19 tally now stands at 136.
During his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a 28-year-old local student contracted the virus before returning from Indonesia via Kuala Lumpur on April 8. He is not showing any symptoms.
“Today’s new case proves that our country is still under threat from COVID-19, especially imported infections. We need to stay alert and not be complacent,” he said.
A further seven patients have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre, taking the total number of recoveries to 99 or a rate of 72 percent.
Two critically ill patients still require life support.
A total of 9,342 diagnostic tests have been conducted so far, including the 357 tests taken in the past 24 hours.
Some 74 people remain in quarantine while 2,308 have been released from their quarantine.
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Home-based learning to continue until May 14
8.37pm | April 9, 2020
The education minister on Thursday announced that public and private schools will carry out home-based learning through online classes until May 14.
YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said the home-based learning initiative applies to all primary and secondary schools, sixth form centres, religious schools as well as vocational schools and Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE).
In a press conference, the minister said the Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri school holidays will take place from May 15-31.
The second academic term will resume on June 2, depending on COVID-19 developments.
Home-learning packages will continue to be prepared for students who do not have Internet access as well as special needs children.
For special needs students, the minister said changes have to be made on how they learn as hands-on learning will be limited during this pandemic.
“The Special Education Unit has prepared technology platforms that can be used to supplement lessons for special needs students,” he added.
YB Dato Hj Hamzah further said parents have been given guidelines to help their children with online learning.
“We know there are issues with access to devices and the Internet, we have identified these challenges to resolve them,” he said, adding that new initiatives will be introduced to address the challenges.
The education ministry initially planned to incorporate online learning in the next two years as part of its strategic plan, but had to bring forward those plans due to the coronavirus outbreak.
When asked whether the Primary School Assessment (PSR) will proceed this year, the minister said it will depend on various factors, including the COVID-19 situation and whether schools manage to cover the entire Year Six curriculum before the public examinations start in October.
PSR may be replaced with an alternative assessment, he said.
YB Dato Hj Hamzah added that there needs to be mutual understanding among parents and private schools, which still require the payment of school fees during the home-based learning period.
“It must be understood that teachers are still preparing learning resources for students, they are not sitting idle,” he said, adding that private schools rely on the fees to fund teachers’ wages.
Zero new COVID-19 cases for fifth consecutive day
6.31pm | April 9, 2020
Brunei reported no new COVID-19 infections for the fifth day in a row, with the health ministry’s 374 random tests on foreign workers returning negative results.
The ministry started conducting random coronavirus tests on migrant workers two days ago to ensure there are no cases outside of the previously identified clusters.
During a press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 42 coronavirus-infected patients are still receiving treatment after one more patient was discharged from the National Isolation Centre.
Ninety-two people or 68 percent of the 135 cases have recovered from the virus in Brunei.
Two critically ill patients remain on life support.
A total of 8,985 lab tests have been conducted thus far, including the 337 sample tests taken in the past 24 hours.
The minister advised the public to stay active and continue exercising to ensure they remain healthy.
He said adults should spend at least 30 minutes to exercise while children can conduct physical activities for one hour every day.
The ministry has also started a survey to gather public perceptions on COVID-19 and the findings are expected to enable the government to evaluate the effectiveness of its awareness campaigns.
Responding to a reporter’s question on whether there had been reports of discrimination since the outbreak began, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said he has heard of intolerance towards those “who look Chinese” when the coronavirus first surfaced in China as well as the Tabligh religious group.
“What we want is solidarity from everyone,” he added.
Full statement from MoH:Fullscreen Mode
MoH reports no new cases for fourth straight day, six more patients recover
5.35pm | April 8, 2020
The health ministry on Wednesday reported zero new coronavirus infections for the fourth consecutive day, with the national COVID-19 tally staying at 135.
In his daily update, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a further six patients have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre overnight.
A total of 91 patients or 67 percent of the total have made full recoveries.
Some 43 patients are still being treated, including two critically ill patients who are on life support.
The minister said 98 foreign workers took the swab test for coronavirus today and his ministry will continue to conduct more sample tests to ensure there is no widespread community transmission of the disease.
A total of 8,648 tests have been administered thus far, which means one in 53 Brunei residents has taken the test.
Ninety-four people are still in quarantine while 2,281 people have been released from their quarantine in the past 24 hours.
Full statement from MoH:Fullscreen Mode
66 companies seek wage subsidy; COVID-19 Relief Fund gathers $4.02 million
9.39pm | April 7, 2020
Sixty-six companies have applied for the 25 percent wage subsidy, a week after the government opened applications to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMES) pay a portion of their workers’ salaries.
In a press conference, Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the companies have requested the three-month financial assistance to cover a cumulative 300 employees who earn $1,500 and below.
The wage subsidy was part of the government’s economic stimulus package to help businesses survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to a reporter’s question on the possibility of businesses abusing the wage subsidy, the minister said companies must fulfil the requirements and that action will be taken against those who abuse the financial aid.
He said 20 i-Ready trainees have secured jobs since the government announced that the apprenticeship programme has been expanded to Higher National Diploma (HND), Advanced Diploma and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates on March 28.
A total of 230 jobs have opened up on JobCentre Brunei after the government announcement, including 50 to 60 employment opportunities for HND graduates and about 30 vacancies for TVET graduates.
The minister on Tuesday said kueh vendors will be offered 50 percent discount on glutinous rice for a month as part of government measures to help MSMEs cope with the cancellation of Gerai Ramadan and wedding events due to COVID-19.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin added that the Treasury Department will sell a 10kg bag of glutinous rice for $3.80 starting from April 8.
Kueh businesses can contact the Treasury Department at 2383666 ext 7788 or email email@example.com to make reservations in purchasing the glutinous rice at the Supply and State Store.
The minister further said the COVID-19 Relief Fund has received $4.02 million since it was launched on March 21.
No new COVID-19 cases for third straight day, recovery rate exceeds 60%
7.09pm | April 7, 2020
Brunei has maintained the total number of COVID-19 cases at 135 after reporting zero new cases for the third day in a row.
The number of recoveries rose to 85 when three patients were discharged from the National Isolation Centre on Tuesday.
Sixty-three percent of patients have recovered from the virus so far, including the youngest patient who is aged six months and 11 other children aged 12 and below.
Some 49 patients are still being hospitalised, with two in critical condition and one under close observation.
During his daily press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said his ministry has started conducting random tests on foreign workers to ensure there is no community spread of the disease in Brunei.
He said 184 sample tests have been taken in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus tests to 8,445 since January.
“A lot of monitoring needs to be done before we can come up with the decision to relax any of the restrictions that we currently have in place,” he added.
The minister further reiterated the importance of adhering to public health measures to reduce the risk of community spread, such as avoiding mass gatherings and practising physical distancing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet even though it is the third consecutive day without new cases and the outbreak is under control in Brunei,” he said.
Full statement from MoH:Fullscreen Mode
Closure of mosques extended for fourth week
9.57pm | April 6, 2020
Mosques, surau and prayer halls will remain closed for the fourth week to curb the spread of COVID-19, said the religious affairs minister on Monday.
Explaining the decision to extend the temporary closure, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said the Brunei Islamic Religious Council examined three options presented by the Ministry of Health.
The first option was to wait for the country to be free from the outbreak, which is 28 days of no new coronavirus cases before reopening the places of worship.
Another option was to wait until the close contacts of the last coronavirus-infected patient complete their quarantine on April 15.
The religious affairs ministry was also given the choice to reopen places of worship this week provided that it adheres to the health ministry’s requirements, including regular cleaning of mosques, surau and religious halls; crowd control as well as ensuring congregants practise social distancing.
The minister said the key consideration was to ensure the safety of the people, thus the council decided that mosques, surau and prayer halls will only be open when the situation no longer poses a danger to congregants and members of the public.
The Department of Mosque Affairs and national broadcaster Radio Televisyen Brunei will also broadcast the live recital of Surah Yassin from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque on April 8 in conjunction with Nisfu Sya’ban.
The minister further said precautionary measures will be taken for zakat fitrah collection during Ramadan to prevent mass gatherings and crowding at mosques.
YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin said this in response to a reporter’s question whether an online collection system for zakat will be implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“We will carry out precautionary measures similar to measures implemented in supermarkets with an emphasis on social distancing and preventing mass gathering,” he said.
MoHA cancels Gerai Ramadan
8.28pm | April 6, 2020
The home affairs minister has announced that the Gerai Ramadan will not be allowed this year to prevent the gathering of large crowds.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said all Ramadan stalls under the jurisdiction of his ministry and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports have been cancelled.
The government has set up an e-commerce portal that provides an alternative way for Ramadan vendors to do business online.
The website is an online directory with links to local e-commerce platforms as well as shipping and logistics providers.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar hoped Ramadan vendors can make use of the portal to conduct their business and further encouraged micro, small and medium enterprises to consider providing delivery services.
For more information, members of the public can contact the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry (AITI) at 2323232 or
eKadaiBrunei@aiti.gov.bn, Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) Helpdesk at 8363442/2384830
or firstname.lastname@example.org, district offices and the Municipal Department.
No new cases for second straight day, MoH to conduct random swab tests on foreign workers
7.17pm | April 6, 2020
The Ministry of Health reported no new coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day but will conduct random tests on foreign workers as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
During his daily press briefing on Monday, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 25 of the 135 cases detected in Brunei comprised foreign nationals, including those with work passes.
Random swab tests will be administered on migrant workers who arrived in Brunei two weeks before the country imposed a travel ban on all foreigners, he said.
Selected employers will be contacted to bring their foreign workers for the coronavirus test.
Responding to a news report that undocumented Bangladeshi workers were afraid to come forward for testing, the home affairs minister said the Department of Immigration and National Registration has yet to report any illegal Bangladeshi workers from 2019 to March 2020.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said 13 foreigners were found without valid passes or permits in the same period, including 12 from Malaysia and one from Indonesia.
Refuting the same news report which stated that seven Bangladeshi workers tested positive for COVID-19 in Brunei, the minister said two Bangladeshi workers were diagnosed with the coronavirus but have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre.
He also called on employers to ensure the welfare of their foreign workers, such as providing a conducive living environment and report their workers who developed coronavirus symptoms.
The Labour Department previously issued 18 warnings to employers who failed to provide acceptable living conditions for migrant workers. A second violation upon subsequent inspection will see the companies’ license revoked.
Employers who failed to help their ill employees seek medical attention can be fined up to $3,000, jailed for less than a year or both if they are found guilty under the Employment Order 2009.
The government currently bears all foreigners’ COVID-19 treatment and testing costs.
To date, a total of 8,261 tests have been conducted.
The health minister said nine more patients have recovered from the coronavirus on Monday, taking the total number of discharged patients to 82.
One of the three critically ill patients no longer needs breathing aid but is still under close observation. One patient remains on life support.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham reminded Bruneians to comply with the government’s public health guidelines as the spread of COVID-19 infection has not ended yet, including practising physical distancing at public places.
Full statement from MoH:Fullscreen Mode
Civil servants who request to work from home must be reviewed on “case-to-case basis”
10.07pm | April 5, 2020
Not all civil servants will be allowed to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, the second minister of finance and economy said on Sunday, explaining that employers should be given flexibility when adjusting to Brunei’s partial shutdown.
The minister was responding to a question on whether the Prime Minister’s Office would be issuing a directive to civil servants allowing vulnerable individuals — such as pregnant women, the elderly suffering from chronic disease, and people with compromised immune systems — to work from home.
“I think we have seen the directive from the Ministry of Health [advising] people who are vulnerable and those who are [elderly] to preferably work from home,” YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said during the daily COVID-19 press briefing.
“For those who are pregnant or vulnerable, I think we have to look at the operations on a case-by-case basis, we cannot have one size fits all solutions.”
He added that both government ministries and private sector need to ensure employee welfare and be open to flexible arrangements, such as reduced working hours or splitting the team into shifts.
“There cannot be a straightforward directive applicable to all types of business or government activities,” he said. “There are companies who don’t have flexibility and limited resources… Therefore we need to have a balance.”
No new cases reported today, first time since March 9
7.19pm | April 5, 2020
Brunei reported no new coronavirus cases on Sunday — the first time since March 9, when its first case was recorded.
The sultanate has seen a decrease in the number of new infections over the past week, with only one or two new cases announced per day since March 28.
In his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar issued a caveat: the spread of COVID-19 has not ended and that current restrictions must remain in place.
“We are still in a crisis,” he told media on Sunday. “To the public – don’t forget, don’t be complacent.”
“Although the state of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country is under control, we are still under threat from the influx of [infections] from outside the country.”
He expanded further by saying that complacency could lead to a resurgence of the disease which may warrant “unwanted measures” such as a lockdown.
“We must remember that since the first case was reported on March 9, the space between then and when we closed our borders is a good two weeks. In those two weeks there were still people going in and out.”
Brunei banned its citizens from leaving the country on March 16, but the ban on inbound travel only came into affect on March 24.
“We have to look at our data — 50 percent are asymptomatic. This is worrying. That’s why we haven’t said restaurants, sports centres can re-open because there is this window [where the virus could have spread further].
“Although our numbers may seem small, there may be community spread [in Brunei], we don’t know yet. That’s why we have to be vigilant.”
The minister also reported that seven more patients have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre, bringing the total number of recoveries to 75. There are now more recovered cases then people still in treatment for COVID-19.
Three patients remain in a critical condition, including one who is kept on life support.Fullscreen Mode
One new case reported; inbound passengers must undergo isolation at monitoring centres
6.52pm | April 4, 2020
Incoming travellers will no longer be given the option of self-isolation at home following reports of non-compliance in self-isolation rules, the health minister said.
Starting tomorrow, anyone who returns from abroad will be required to undergo isolation at government-designated monitoring centres.
In his daily press briefing, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said two factors influenced the decision to scrap the option of self-isolation.
He said there were reports of people leaving their homes when they were required to self-isolate and there are now more rooms available for the mandatory 14-day isolation at health monitoring centres.
The minister said “a few students” are expected to arrive home in the next coming days.
On March 30, the minister had said 531 people chose to isolate themselves at home after returning from overseas.
The ministry reported one new case on Saturday, which involved a 43-year-old man who planned to attend a Tabligh gathering in Makassar, Indonesia.
Indonesian authorities cancelled the religious event and he was quarantined for 14 days in Makassar, but he continued to travel to Jakarta and took a flight to Kuala Lumpur before returning home via Miri.
The national COVID-19 tally now stands at 135.
One more patient has been discharged from the National Isolation Centre, bringing the total number of recoveries to 66.
Three patients remain in a critical condition, including one who is kept on life support.
One in every 58 Brunei resident has taken the swab test for coronavirus after 7,801 tests were administered since January.
A total of 353 individuals are undergoing quarantine, while 1,984 people have been released from quarantine.
Full statement from MoH:Fullscreen Mode