Welcome to our COVID-19 live blog for the month of May, where we’ll post news as it happens. If you’re searching for previous updates, you can find all archived blog entries at our COVID-19 hub


Gov’t launches ‘PremiseScan’ contact tracing app

7.52pm | May 28, 2020

The government has released another COVID-19 contact tracing app known as PremiseScan that allows businesses and premises to grant or deny the entry of Brunei residents who are unable to download the BruHealth mobile app due to phone incompatibility.

In a press conference on Thursday, Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the app is an alternative method in practising crowd control at public spaces as it enables businesses and premises to check whether they have reached the capacity limit.

Members of the public who do not have BruHealth app can generate their own QR code through the Health Info website each time they wish to visit a public place.

They will need to print and show the QR code at businesses and premises, which will then use the PremiseScan app to scan their customers’ QR code before entering or leaving their property.

Those issued with a red health code will not be permitted to enter the premises.

Business owners must make sure they have registered on the Health Info website before they can use the new app, which is also equipped with Bluetooth technology.

The app is available on Google Play but is not compatible with older mobile devices. It will be accessible on Apple’s AppStore once it has been approved.


Half of Brunei population using BruHealth app; 74% of mosque spots reserved for Friday prayers

5.47pm | May 28, 2020

The BruHealth mobile app has reached 233,737 users or 50.8 percent of Brunei’s population, two weeks after the app was launched to assist in contact tracing.

Some 3,825 businesses and premises have also signed up on the app, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press briefing on Thursday.

The minister said 35,980 people have used the app to reserve their places for Friday prayers as mosques will reopen tomorrow with a limited capacity.

The government has opened up 48,898 spots for worshippers to attend Friday prayers tomorrow, with 74 percent of those places currently filled.

Mosques will not be allowed to host congregants in other areas of their compound as gates will be closed once they hit the quota limit, said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham.

All congregants are required to wear protective face masks and bring their own prayer mat to mosques. Only those issued with a green health code on the BruHealth app will gain entry to mosques.

The minister further advised the public to be careful in updating their health status on the app as it will “take a while” to process users’ appeal for a specific health code, thereby preventing them from gaining access to public places.


One active case remains as another patient discharged; MoH posts zero new cases for 21 straight days

5.15pm | May 28, 2020

Only one coronavirus case is still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre after another patient was discharged in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

A total of 138 people have made full recoveries from the coronavirus since Brunei detected its first case on March 9. The remaining case is in a critical condition and kept on life support.

The ministry posted zero new COVID-19 cases for 21 days in a row on Thursday as the tally remained at 141.

While all 2,679 contacts of confirmed cases have been released from their quarantine, 140 people who recently arrived in the country are in self-isolation at public health monitoring centres.

To date, 2,239 people have completed their self-isolation orders.

Full statement from MoH:

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Over 48% of Brunei population on BruHealth app; nearly 30,000 spots reserved for Friday prayers

6.08pm | May 27, 2020

About 48 percent of Brunei’s population have downloaded the BruHealth mobile app, according to data from the health ministry.

A total of 223,356 Brunei residents as well as 3,563 businesses and premises have registered as BruHealth users.

The ministry said 29,944 people have also used the contact tracing app to reserve their spots for Friday prayers as mosques will reopen this week.

Volunteers and mosque officers will be on hand to help the public use the BruHealth app to book their Friday prayer slots at mosques and prayer halls from Thursday to Friday at 9am-11am and 1pm-3pm.


MoH confirms second COVID-19 death, zero new cases for 20 consecutive days

4.32pm | May 27, 2020

Brunei reported its second coronavirus-related death after a 56-year-old man succumbed to the disease on Wednesday morning.

Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the victim, Case 94, had been receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre since March 24.

Brunei recorded no new coronavirus cases for 20 consecutive days on Wednesday, with the COVID-19 tally maintained at 141.

Read the full story here.

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Over 24,000 congregants book spots to attend Friday prayers through BruHealth app

6.18pm | May 26, 2020

A total of 24,689 people have booked their places to attend this week’s Friday prayers through the BruHealth app, a day after the government opened mosque reservations.

Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said 33 mosques have reached the 50 percent capacity limit for Friday prayers, of which 11 have exceeded the 80 percent maximum capacity allowed.

Mosques and other places of worship will reopen for Friday prayers this week after 10 weeks of closure as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19.

For Brunei residents whose phones are incompatible with the mobile app, they can generate a QR code on the Health Info website.

Worshippers are required to update their health status on the app daily before and after attending the Friday prayers to facilitate COVID-19 contact tracing.

Those who are at a higher risk from coronavirus will not be allowed to enter mosques, including children under the age of 15. Only those with a green health code can perform Friday prayers at mosques.

Forty-seven percent of Brunei’s population have downloaded the contact tracing app to date.

Some 216,044 individuals are using the BruHealth app, in addition to 3,483 businesses and premises, said health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.

The second finance and economy minister said the use of the app will be expanded to other premises including education institutions as part of the government’s “de-escalation plan” in relaxing coronavirus control measures.

“The app will be the new norm that we need to accept, adapt and adopt,” he added.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said the COVID-19 Relief Fund has received $14.23 million in over two months.


Tally stays at 141 without new infections for 19 straight days

5.01pm | May 26, 2020

The health ministry registered no new coronavirus cases for 19 straight days on Tuesday, keeping the total number of confirmed infections at 141.

Three active cases remain at the National Isolation Centre with no additional recoveries reported in the past 24 hours.

Two of the patients are in a critical condition, with one case back on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life support.

Giving his press briefing on Tuesday, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar urged convenience store owners to practise safety guidelines, including limiting the entry of customers at a time.

He said there were public complaints on large number of customers entering convenience stores.

When asked for a time frame on the resumption of regular services at Berakas Health Centre, the minister said normal services may restart if the COVID-19 situation remains under control two weeks after the government’s easing of restrictions.

The Berakas and Pengkalan Batu health centres were turned into flu clinics during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Full statement from MoH:

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BruHealth app surpasses 200,000 users; recovery rate reaches 97%

5.38pm | May 25, 2020

A total of 207,395 individuals have signed up as users on the BruHealth app, accounting for 45.1 percent of Brunei’s population.

The health ministry on Monday said 3,386 businesses and premises have also joined the contact tracing app since it was launched 11 days ago.

The latest figures meant that the app has yet to reach the 80 percent of users required for contact tracing to be deemed effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but the government plans to make the app mandatory for all Brunei residents.

No new coronavirus infections were confirmed for 18 successive days on Monday, maintaining the COVID-19 tally at 141.

Brunei’s recovery rate of coronavirus patients has risen to 97.1 percent after one case was discharged on Sunday, leaving just three people still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre.

Full statement from MoH:

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Mosque reservations for Friday prayers start on May 25 through BruHealth app

8.02pm | May 23, 2020

Worshippers can start making reservations to attend Friday prayers through the BruHealth app from 12pm on May 25 as mosques will reopen next week.

Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said members of the public whose phones are incompatible with the mobile app can book their spots through the Health Info website.

Military and police officers will be deployed to assist the public to scan the QR code at mosques on May 29.

Individuals who failed to reserve a place are advised to not attend Friday prayers. Only those who have been issued with a green health code can enter mosques.

The minister also called on foreigners to download the BruHealth app and encourage their friends who are not fluent in Malay to use the app for daily activities and Friday prayers.


Opening hours of Temburong bridge reverted

6.45pm | May 23, 2020

The daily opening hours of the Temburong bridge will be reverted from 6am to 10pm beginning on May 24, the second finance and economy minister announced.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said 24-hour CCTV cameras have been installed along the bridge.

The COVID-19 outbreak had forced the government to open the $1.4 billion bridge ahead of schedule on March 17 after borders were closed, preventing commuters from travelling to the district through Limbang.

The bridge was initially opened from 6am to 10pm but heavy traffic prompted the government to shorten the opening hours from 6am to 6pm two days after the bridge opening.

In a press statement, the Prime Minister’s Office warned the public against littering or dumping rubbish on the bridge.

It said that a motorist was recently caught throwing garbage on the 26.3km bridge through CCTV cameras.

Members of the public can contact the operation centre at Talian Darussalam 123 for any emergencies or enquiries on the bridge.


Travel restrictions remain in place amid Raya festivities

5.12pm | May 23, 2020

The government has no immediate plans to lift travel restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading in other countries, the minister at the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday.

Speaking in a press conference ahead of Aidilfitri celebrations, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Awg Abdul Mokti Hj Mohd Daud said the travel ban on Brunei residents and foreigners is still in place, two months after Brunei shut its borders to reduce the number of imported coronavirus cases.

For Bruneians who wish to return abroad and continue their studies, the minister said students must make sure the country they are travelling to has brought the COVID-19 outbreak under control and take into account quarantine requirements.

While applying for a travel permit from the Prime Minister’s Office, students are also required to get confirmation from their universities that they need to return when the new semester starts.

Noting that the global pandemic has yet to end, he said government agencies have implemented their own “de-escalation plans” in phased easing of coronavirus curbs.

Under the de-escalation plan, all government agencies are required to review their business continuity plan based on the COVID-19 situation in and outside of the country.

Online government services that were introduced during the COVID-19 outbreak are expected to continue after the pandemic is over.


No additional cases and recoveries recorded

4.13pm | May 23, 2020

About 42.5 percent of Brunei residents have downloaded the BruHealth app since it was released more than a week ago to facilitate COVID-19 contact tracing.

Delivering his daily COVID-19 update, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 195,713 individuals have registered on the app.

A total of 3,270 businesses and premises have applied for the QR code, including 1,226 restaurants and 336 schools.

Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said a few businesses had trouble understanding the use of the QR code since the app is still in the early stage of adoption.

However, he is confident that more businesses and the public will familiarise themselves with the app in due course.

The health ministry reported no new coronavirus cases and recoveries on Saturday, keeping the national COVID-19 tally at 141 for 16 straight days.

All quarantined contacts of confirmed cases were released two days ago but 164 individuals are still undergoing the mandatory self-isolation at designated monitoring centres after returning from abroad.

The minister said random testing is still being conducted a week after the government started loosening coronavirus restrictions.

“We need to wait for another week for the full incubation period [of COVID-19] before we can move to the next phase [of easing public control measures],” he added.

Full statement from MoH:

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BruHealth app reaches over 40% of Brunei population; MoH logs zero new cases for 15 consecutive days

5.05pm | May 22, 2020

The government’s BruHealth contact tracing app continued to gather public momentum as 40.9 percent of Brunei’s population have downloaded the mobile app.

A total of 188,261 individuals and 3,056 businesses and premises have registered as users on the app, said health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar on Friday.

A new feature was released on the app today, enabling users to scan a separate QR code for takeouts at restaurants.

The minister said businesses should make sure their customers use the app to scan the QR code and prevent users with red, blue or purple health codes from entering their premises.

He also warned runners who are doing cross-border delivery of parcels against non-compliance of government rules following reports that some of them did not wear protective face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) while handling packages.

Runners may get their permit cancelled or face legal action if they fail to adhere to government guidelines, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohammad Isham added.

The health ministry logged zero new coronavirus cases for 15 consecutive days on Friday, with the total number of confirmed infections maintained at 141.

Four active cases remain at the National Isolation Centre, including two critically ill patients.

Full statement from MoH:

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Schools will partially reopen on June 2

5.52pm | May 21, 2020

Not all students will return to classrooms when government and private schools reopen on June 2, with priority given to students sitting for public exams, the education minister announced in a press conference.

Students in Year 6, 8, 10 Express, 11, 12 and 13 will go back to school in the first phase of restarting in-school learning, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said on Thursday.

Teachers will resume face-to-face lessons for public exam-sitting students for two weeks before the education ministry decides to proceed to the second phase of school reopening.

The reopening comes nearly 11 weeks since all public and private schools, including sixth form centres as well as technical and vocational education institutions, were closed to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full story here.


Raya open houses prohibited but celebrations with close family members allowed

5.02pm | May 21, 2020

The customary Raya open house will not be permitted as only close family members are allowed to gather for celebrations, the health minister said on Thursday.

Announcing safety guidelines for Raya celebrations, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said close family members including parents and siblings can visit one another when the festive season starts later this month.

He said Raya festivities will be different this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but this does not mean Bruneians cannot celebrate with their families.

“What’s important is to always exercise our social responsibility to avoid the spread of COVID-19,” the minister added.

Those with big families must limit the number of people to 20 or 30 people at a time, depending on the size of their homes.

There should be staggered hours of visiting family members, ensuring that visitors do not arrive or leave at the same time.

The guidelines stated that Bruneians should also refrain from shaking hands or hugging one another during their visits. Instead, they are encouraged to place their hands on their chest, smile or nod their head as a sign of respect or greeting.

Anyone who shows symptoms or feels unwell must avoid visiting family members.

Raya open offices at workplaces are also banned.


Gov’t irons out BruHealth app issues, Brunei marks two weeks without new infections

4.23pm | May 21, 2020

Brunei marked two weeks without new coronavirus infections on Thursday, while all 2,679 quarantined contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been released.

Four active cases remain at the National Isolation Centre as no additional recoveries were reported in the past 24 hours.

During the daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the government is still ironing out issues with the BruHealth app after some users reported problems with registration and the health assessment tool.

He said the app will be updated as mobile users with Android 6 and below are unable to download the contact tracing app due to phone incompatibility.

The app will also include a new feature whereby a different QR code will be used for restaurant takeout customers starting from tomorrow.

Patrons who have logged their entry to a restaurant for two hours will automatically be removed from the BruHealth system as some customers forgot to scan the QR code before leaving the premises.

While thousands of businesses have applied the QR code for the app, the minister said some companies have provided false information on the maximum capacity of their premises – an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act.

The health ministry will not hesitate to take action against anyone who violates government guidelines and spot checks will be conducted, he added.

The minister also warned that legal action will be taken against anyone who is violent or rude towards on-duty staff of 148 health advice line.

Full statement from MoH:

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BruHealth app to be made mandatory

4.13pm | May 20, 2020

The BruHealth app will be made mandatory for all Brunei residents “in the near future” as the COVID-19 pandemic might drag on until next year, the health minister said on Wednesday.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said it is currently not compulsory for all residents and businesses to use the contact tracing app but the government will push for wider adoption as at least 80 percent of public participation is required for the app to be effective.

A total of 169,212 individuals or 36.8 percent of Brunei’s population have registered as users since the app was released a week ago.

Some 2,552 businesses and premises have applied for the QR code, making up 18 percent of the 13,836 registered companies in Brunei.

The minister also urged government agencies to apply for the QR code, especially those that provide customer services.

No new coronavirus infections were announced for the 13th consecutive day in the press briefing on Wednesday, keeping the cumulative number of confirmed cases at 141.

The total number of recoveries stands at 136, leaving four patients still being hospitalised at the National Isolation Centre.

A total of 17,718 diagnostic tests have been conducted thus far, accounting for 3.8 percent of the population.

Full statement from MoH:

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One in three Brunei residents on BruHealth app, MoH registers zero new infections for 12 successive days

3.49pm | May 19, 2020

More than one-third of Brunei’s population have registered as BruHealth app users, six days after the contact tracing app was released.

The number of registered users falls short of the 80 percent of public participation needed for the app to be considered effective in stopping the COVID-19 outbreak.

Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 156,961 individuals and 2,313 businesses and premises have downloaded the app.

A total of 191 schools have also applied for the QR code that needs to be scanned each time users enter or leave premises.

Schools have been closed since March 11 but planning is underway to reopen them as early as June 2.

The health ministry registered zero new coronavirus infections for the 12th successive day on Tuesday. The national COVID-19 tally remained at 141.

No additional recoveries were reported, with four patients still being treated at the National Isolation Centre.

Full statement from MoH: 

BruHealth app allows mosque reservations for Friday prayers

5pm | May 18, 2020

The religious affairs minister on Monday announced that the Brunei Islamic Religious Council has adopted a four-phased approach to reopening of mosques, beginning with Friday prayers on May 29.

During a press conference, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said mosques and other places of worship will open for Friday prayers on May 29, June 5 and 12 following a 10-week closure.

If no new coronavirus cases have been reported two weeks after mosques reopen, the council will proceed to the second phase that allows the public to perform the five daily prayers at mosques.

Mosques will only open 10 minutes before the call to prayer and close 10 minutes after the prayers have ended.

The minister, who did not provide details on the third and fourth phases, said worshippers are required to perform ablution at home, bring their own prayer mat and wear a protective face mask to mosques.

The BruHealth app will be used to determine whether each member of the public is fit and healthy to perform prayers at places of worship. Only users issued a green code will be allowed entry.

Congregants can make reservations to attend Friday prayers days before mosques reopen through the app, the health minister said.

Only male congregants above the age of 15 will be allowed entry. The government has also set a limit for mosques, surau and prayers halls to accommodate 30 percent of their full seating capacity at a time.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the public must complete the app’s personal health assessment before and after visiting mosques.


Brunei records zero new cases for 11 straight days

3.42pm | May 18, 2020

Brunei maintained its cumulative COVID-19 tally at 141 on Monday as no new infections were recorded for 11 days in a row.

Four patients are still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre, including two who are in a critical condition.

While Brunei has started loosening coronavirus restrictions over the weekend, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar reminded the public to stay vigilant as the sultanate is still under threat from the disease.

He said a few people, including vendors, have not been complying with the health ministry’s guidelines.

The minister warned that spot checks will be conducted on business premises and legal action will be taken against anyone who violates the government’s directive.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said members of the public are recommended to use the BruHealth contact tracing app when they are ordering takeaways and not just for dine-in at restaurants, noting that using the app will be the new norm.

Full statement from MoH:

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No new cases for 10 consecutive days

5.35pm | May 17, 2020

More than a quarter of Brunei’s population has downloaded the BruHealth contact tracing app as the government began lifting some COVID-19 restrictions this weekend.

The app requires users to fill out a health assessment every day, from which one of five colour codes will be issued indicating whether a user is allowed to move about freely. Using Bluetooth, the app also tracks users’ movements as they leave and enter different public spaces.

Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 119,477 individuals and 1,492 businesses and premises have registered on the app since it was released on Thursday.

While eateries, markets and sports facilities are now allowed to reopen, they are only permitted host 30 percent of their capacity at any one time.

Only customers who have been issued a green or yellow code via the BruHealth app will be allowed to enter. Red, blue and purple code-holders are not allowed to enter public spaces.

The minister encouraged more business premises to register for a QR code so people can scan the code before entering and exiting.

On Sunday, MoH recorded no new COVID-19 infections for the tenth consecutive day. The nationwide tally remains at 141.

Full statement from MoH:

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BruHealth contact tracing app tops 84,000 users in 2 days

4.36pm | May 16, 2020

A total of 84,524 residents have registered to use the BruHealth contact tracing app, two days after the government rolled out the smartphone app to facilitate the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The health ministry on Saturday said the app has received 53,066 Android users and 31,459 downloads on Apple’s AppStore.

The total number of downloads represents 18.3 percent of Brunei’s population. The ministry previously said the app needs to be used by at least 80 percent of residents for it to be effective in containing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some 1,317 businesses have applied for the QR code, including 797 restaurants, 85 gyms and 81 retail stores.

Eateries and gyms are part of the six types of businesses that have been permitted to reopen in the government’s first phase of relaxing COVID-19 control measures.

Employees and customers must scan the QR code with the app before they are allowed to enter and leave business premises.

During his daily press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said worshippers must also use the app before entering and exiting mosques and other places of worship.

Mosques, surau and prayers halls are expected to reopen on May 29 for Friday prayers after a 10-week closure.

However, the minister said all places of worship, including churches and temples, can only accommodate 30 percent of their maximum seating capacity and physical distancing must be practised.

The app will provide information on whether a specific mosque has reached the given capacity for Friday prayers and congregants will need to visit another place of worship if it has hit its quota limit, he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham added that all worshippers will be required to update their health status on the app every day after visiting the mosque.

Failure to update their health status daily will see congregants barred from entering mosques the next time they visit.

The ministry reported zero new coronavirus infections on Saturday, with the total number of cases maintained at 141.

One more patient has made a full recovery in the past 24 hours, leaving just four people still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre.

Full statement from MoH:

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Active cases drop to five as another patient recovers

4.55pm | May 15, 2020

The number of active COVID-19 cases fell to five in Brunei after one more patient was discharged on Friday, increasing the recovery rate to 95.7 percent.

The health minister in his daily press briefing said no new infections were recorded on Friday, marking eight straight days the cumulative COVID-19 tally remained at 141.

Two patients hospitalised at the National Isolation Centre are still in a critical condition, said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.

A day after the government launched the BruHealth contact tracing app, the minister said the verification code to access the app will now expire in a week instead of the previous five minutes.

There were reports of users experiencing problems with the verification code hours after the app was released.

He advised the public to request for the verification code once only as making multiple requests will further result in network congestion.

Full statement from MoH:

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Gov’t launches BruHealth contact tracing app

10.45pm | May 14, 2020

The government has rolled out its BruHealth contact tracing app on Thursday following the announcement on easing of coronavirus curbs.

Owners of six types of businesses – driving schools, gyms and fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, golf courses, restaurants, cafés and food courts as well as stalls and markets – must download the app and register before they are allowed to reopen on May 16.

All Brunei residents are expected to use the app every time they enter or leave business premises, allowing authorities to track potential carriers of COVID-19.

Full story here.


Gyms, sports facilities to resume operations with limitations

10.36pm | May 14, 2020

Brunei has given the green light for gyms and fitness centers, indoor and outdoor sports facilities as well as golf courses to reopen this Saturday (May 16) but owners must comply with the health ministry’s guidelines to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The three types of facilities are considered low risk and form part of the government’s first phase of “de-escalation” plan in reducing coronavirus control measures.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said the facilities will operate on a limited basis under the government’s Operational Readiness Level 1.

All facilities are only open to registered members and operate with 30 percent of their total capacity at a time. These members must register or pre-book to use the facilities.

Gym members are only allowed to use the facility for a maximum of one hour.

Swimming pools remain closed while team and contact sports are not permitted.

For golf courses, there is a limit of two players in a flight and only one person can ride a buggy at a time.

In addition, all sports facility users are required to bring their own sports equipment as sharing of equipment is not allowed.

The minister said existing guidelines must continue to be practised, such as maintaining social responsibility as well as ensuring physical distancing and personal hygiene.

He added that a total of 1,247 individuals have enrolled as youth volunteers to help the government handle the COVID-19 outbreak.

About 150 youth volunteers were assigned daily tasks by the Ministry of Health and National Disaster Management Centre.

YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Aminuddin said volunteers and donors have also contributed in the production of personal protective equipment to frontline healthcare workers, including face shields, face masks and scrubs.


MTIC collects over 5,000 parcels across the border

7.21pm | May 14, 2020

The Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications has picked up 5,156 parcels that were left uncollected by Brunei residents at Limbang and Miri post offices as travel restrictions have affected the dispatch of packages since March.

All parcels have been processed at the Mail and Parcel Processing Centre on Old Airport Road, Berakas on Wednesday following disinfection and quarantine for three days, the ministry said.

On April 20, the ministry had announced that the Postal Services Department would retrieve the parcels on behalf of Brunei recipients as runners could not provide cross-border parcel delivery services when both Brunei and Malaysia shut their borders due to COVID-19.

The Postal Services Department will contact recipients to make appointments on parcel collection.

For more information, members of the public can contact the department’s customer service centre at 2380481, 8711002 via WhatsApp or email cscpost@post.gov.bn.


Driving schools allowed to reopen on May 16

5.53pm | May 14, 2020

Driving schools will reopen in all four districts on May 16 but will be required to limit the number of students to 30 percent of their full capacity at a time, the transport and infocommunications minister said on Thursday.

YB Dato Seri Setia Abd Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yusof said all driving schools must comply with safety guidelines, including performing temperature checks before classes start.

Driving instructors and students are advised to wear face masks during classes and to stay at home if they show signs of infection.

The reopening comes nearly two months after driving schools were shut on March 19.

The Land Transport Department (LTD) will also start accepting new applications for all classes of driving licenses and the Highway Code Test on May 16.

LTD is also expected to issue guidelines for practical driving lessons to driving schools soon.


Brunei starts easing restrictions on eateries, sports facilities from May 16; no new cases reported for a week

5.11pm | May 14, 2020

Six types of premises will be allowed to reopen on May 16, including restaurants, gyms and sports facilities, driving schools as well as stalls and markets as part of the government’s “de-escalation plan” to ease coronavirus restrictions.

During a press conference on Thursday, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar announced that the loosening of coronavirus measures will be done in phases as the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control in Brunei.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has given his consent to the first phase of easing coronavirus curbs.

The minister said the government will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will tighten public health control measures if there is an “alarming outbreak”.

While Brunei has started to gradually lift restrictions, he said the public must understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and there is limited community transmission of the virus in the sultanate.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham noted that the health ministry still could not determine how three foreign workers contracted the virus in Belait after testing positive last week.

Brunei reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases for a week on Thursday, with the cumulative COVID-19 tally staying at 141.

Full statement from MoH:

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Rising import prices push up food costs, says MoFE

8.52pm | May 13, 2020

High import prices and supply shortages triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed up cost of goods in Brunei, the second minister of finance and economy said.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said his ministry’s Competition and Consumer Affairs Department has received nearly 200 complaints on prices of face masks and hand sanitisers during the early days of the outbreak.

There were also reports of a price hike in vegetables as demand exceeded supply.

The minister said the department has investigated the complaints and concluded that businesses did not mark up prices to make more money but because of high import costs.

He added that the government allowed transport operators to conduct cross-border delivery of goods to help ease the supply shortages and bring down prices.

Limited Royal Brunei Airlines flights to neighbouring countries also meant that there were air cargo logistics issues, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said.

He added that stable pricing of goods cannot be guaranteed in the next few months as it would depend on the situation in countries where Brunei imports from and whether local farmers can meet demand.


Contact tracing app ready for release soon

5.40pm | May 13, 2020

The BruHealth contact tracing app will be introduced to Brunei soon. Photo: The Scoop

The new BruHealth contact tracing app will be ready to deploy once COVID-19 restrictions are eased, the second minister of finance and economy said Wednesday.

Responding to a reporter’s question on when can businesses start registering for the app, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the app has been approved by Google’s Play store but is still awaiting review from Apple’s App Store.

The BruHealth app will be used by both businesses and individuals once some premises are allowed to reopen.

The app generates a three-colour ranking code – green means the user is fit and given permission to go out, users with a yellow code can appeal to the authorities before they are allowed to move freely while those with a red code are prohibited from stepping out of their homes.

The minister said the app will help provide an effective control mechanism that allows the health ministry to monitor and trace contacts if there is further spread of COVID-19.

When asked what type of businesses will reopen first, the minister said “lower risk” premises will be given priority.

Limits on number of restaurant patrons may also be imposed to ensure physical distancing is still practised.

The minister said more information on the criteria for businesses to resume their operations will be publicised in the near future.


COVID-19 Relief Fund collects over $14 million

5.35pm | May 13, 2020

The exterior of the new extension building for the National Isolation Centre in Tutong. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

A healthcare facility funded from public donations may become a reality in Brunei after the COVID-19 Relief Fund garnered $14.12 million, less than two months after it was launched on March 21.

Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said a committee will discuss and decide whether to use the public donations to finance the National Isolation Centre’s new $11 million extension.

The minister had previously proposed using the donations to pay for the new extension building if the fund managed to raise enough money.

He said the excess amount from the fund will be used to purchase other items deemed necessary by the committee.


MoH posts zero new cases for sixth straight day

3.48pm | May 13, 2020

Brunei’s COVID-19 tally remained at 141 on Wednesday after the health ministry posted zero new coronavirus cases for the sixth successive day.

There are still six active cases receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre as no additional recoveries were recorded.

With some countries reporting a second wave of infections after easing coronavirus curbs, the health minister said there are three areas to consider before Brunei can start to gradually loosen restrictions.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the country must have the ability to control the COVID-19 outbreak, capability in handling other health issues to ensure non-coronavirus patients are not neglected and the capacity to diagnose and conduct contact tracing.

“We fulfil most of the criteria but because of recent new cases, we need to be careful, he said.

Brunei had reported no new COVID-19 cases for 16 days in a row before three foreign workers in Belait tested positive for the disease in the government’s random testing last week.

The minister added that there are plans to open another flu centre in Seria as part of measures to improve the healthcare capacity in Belait.

“Once these are okay and there are no new cases, Insyallah we will [lift restrictions] the moment we feel it’s safe,” he added.

Full statement from MoH:

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No additional cases detected in Brunei

3.31pm | May 12, 2020

No additional COVID-19 cases were detected for the fifth straight day on Tuesday, keeping the total number of confirmed infections at 141.

Two out of the six people being treated at the National Isolation Centre are still in a critical condition.

With three COVID-19 cases reported in the past three weeks, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar reiterated that Brunei will not rush to relax coronavirus restrictions even as other countries in Asia and Europe have started reopening their economies.

He said Brunei must be cautious in lifting public health control measures and that there will be a gradual easing of coronavirus curbs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that several countries have recently reported a surge in COVID-19 cases after easing lockdowns.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should have the COVID-19 outbreak under control, ensure its health systems can cope with a potential resurgence and have testing, tracing and isolating infrastructure in place before relaxing restrictions.

Full statement from MoH:

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Tally remains at 141 as MoH records zero new cases

4.51pm | May 11, 2020

The health ministry registered zero new coronavirus cases on Monday, leaving the cumulative number of infections at 141 for the fourth consecutive day.

Six people are still hospitalised for the disease, with no recoveries reported.

Speaking on investigations into the three foreign workers who contracted the virus in March, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said their source of infection is yet to be determined.

However, he said it is “highly likely” that Case 141 was the first to show symptoms and infected Cases 139 and 140. All three were reported to be living together and attended a social gathering in March.

A total of 114 of the trio’s contacts tested negative for the virus.

The minister added that since April 6, more than 5,000 foreign workers have been randomly tested — accounting for 30% of overall testing in Brunei. None of these additional surveillance tests have come up positive.

Full statement from MoH:

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No new infections, nationwide tally remains at 141

4.54pm | May 10, 2020

No new COVID-19 cases were reported on Sunday, with the nationwide tally remaining at 141.

Two more people made recoveries, bringing the number of patients being treated for the disease down to just six. Two of them are still in critical condition.

The Ministry of Health also reported that three more discharged COVID-19 patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus again during subsequent monitoring. They have been readmitted to the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.

 

 

MoH said it would no longer be publicly disclosing statistics for the relapsed cases, citing studies that have shown a high probability that these cases are not infectious.

The ministry conducted 416 lab tests for the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of diagnostic tests conducted to 15,898.

Full statement from MoH: 
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Six people found with COVID-19 antibodies in community testing

4.09pm | May 9, 2020

Six people were found to have developed antibodies for COVID-19 in the random community testing, but the health minister said they are not infectious after testing negative in the swab test for coronavirus.

The six survey participants make up 1.1 percent of the 527 people who joined the antibody testing at five designated public health centres from May 4-6.

In his press briefing on Saturday, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said preliminary analysis of the antibody survey is inconclusive to suggest that all six had contracted COVID-19 as they may have been false positives.

He said there are a few hypotheses that can be drawn from the study, including the possibility that there is limited community spread of the novel coronavirus if the six survey participants had indeed been exposed to COVID-19.

The minister added that there was a two-month window for community transmission of COVID-19 to take place in Brunei.

“We only closed our border sometime in March, people have been going in and out of the country since the virus was reported in January,” he said.

Brunei first detected its first case on March 9 and shut its borders to foreigners on March 24.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the six people may have had false positives for COVID-19 as the antibody test kit can “cross-react with [a different] human coronavirus, which causes the normal flu”.

He added that all contacts of the six survey participants tested negative for COVID-19.

The health ministry will conduct more antibody tests in the future as the current sample size is small, the minister said, adding the study can help estimate the population’s immunity for a specific infection.

The national COVID-19 tally remained at 141 without new infections reported on Saturday.

Full statement from MoH:

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MoH expects antibody testing to show “limited community spread” of coronavirus

7.12pm | May 8, 2020

The health ministry is expecting antibody tests to show “some limited community spread” of the coronavirus as Brunei only imposed a travel ban more than two months after the virus was first reported in China.

Brunei started the one-week antibody testing at designated public health centres on Monday to have a better understanding whether there is widespread community transmission of COVID-19.

Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 400 to 500 blood tests are expected to be taken for the antibody survey.

He said the sample is small but will provide assurance for the government before it relaxes coronavirus restrictions.

Those who test positive will have a diagnostic test again to check whether they still carry the virus.

“We also want to know whether the community has developed antibodies [for the coronavirus] as some are hoping for the principle of herd immunity,” the minister said.

Herd immunity happens when a large population is immune to an infectious disease and stops it from spreading further but scientists have warned that it is not certain recovered coronavirus individuals will not get reinfected.

The minister previously said some recovered patients do not develop antibodies for the virus.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said there are currently no plans to launch a trial of blood plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients.

“It is not as easy as it sounds and we need to [weigh] its pros and cons,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on whether the health ministry is seeking blood plasma donations to treat critically ill coronavirus patients as studies have shown promising results.

The therapy involves taking blood from a recovered coronavirus survivor and transfusing the blood, which contains valuable antibodies, to people who developed severe symptoms from the virus.


No new cases detected, one more patient makes full recovery

5.18pm | May 8, 2020

No new coronavirus cases were detected on Friday, while one more patient is officially declared recovered in the past 24 hours.

Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 132 of the total number of 141 cases have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre.

Speaking at the daily press briefing, the minister said officials are still investigating how the three foreign workers who tested positive earlier this week contracted the virus in March.

A total of 114 of their contacts have been tested with 103 returning negative test results.

The minister also urged the public not to discriminate against coronavirus-infected patients following reports of intolerance shown towards them.

He said WhatsApp messages were circulating and telling people to stay away from recovered individuals, avoid visiting their workplaces and that they should not return to work.

“These incidents shouldn’t be happening. On the contrary, the public should send them well-wishes and pray for their recovery,” YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham added.

Full statement from MoH:

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MoH releases instructional videos on new contact tracing app

8.36pm | May 7, 2020

The health ministry has released two videos explaining the use of its new BruHealth contact tracing app that will be adopted once coronavirus restrictions start to ease at an undisclosed date.

The app allows authorities to track potential coronavirus carriers in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Business owners will be required to apply for the reopening of their premises before they are issued a customised QR code that will be used for the contact tracing app.

 

Members of the public must also download the app as they will need to scan the QR code before and when leaving business premises.

Second finance and economy minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the use of the app may also be extended to schools once they reopen.

“The intention [of the app] is to actually extend it to other establishments including supermarkets,” he said.

When more people use the app, the government will be able to gather more data for accurate prediction of cases and help the health ministry allocate medical resources, he said.

He added that the app will boost public confidence in terms of people complying with safety guidelines when they visit public spaces.

When asked about public response towards the self-assessment tool on the HealthInfo website, the minister said over 30,000 people have used the tool since it was launched in March.


Gov’t announces building tax cut for landlords

6pm | May 7, 2020

The home affairs minister on Thursday announced that the annual building tax will be slashed up to 50 percent for landlords who cut or waive their commercial tenants’ rent.

Building owners must reduce at least 10 percent of their monthly rent for six months to qualify for the tax relief, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press briefing.

The building tax cut is an addition to the government’s $450 million economic stimulus measures that were announced in March to help businesses survive the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative aimed to alleviate the financial burden of commercial tenants affected by COVID-19 and reduce the impact of outstanding rent, said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar.

The tax relief applies to commercial and residential property owners with business tenants, including home-based businesses.

Landlords who reduce their monthly rent of at least 10 percent will have their building tax lowered by 20 percent. Those who decreased their rent by 20 percent and above can enjoy a 50 percent tax cut.

Building owners must submit their applications with supporting documents to the Municipal Department.

For more information, the public can contact the Bandar Seri Begawan Municipal Department at 2232424 ext 120/ 7179900, Kuala Belait and Seria Municipal Department at 3347300 and Tutong Municipal Department at 4221009/ 8117115.


Brunei sees two new cases as tally reaches 141

4.34pm | May 7, 2020

Two more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the national COVID-19 tally to 141.

Both cases are foreign workers linked to yesterday’s single case from Belait district, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in his daily COVID-19 update.

Similar to yesterday’s case, the two new infections were detected following random testing among Brunei residents, including foreign workers.

All three cases have been living together in a dormitory and were most likely infected with the coronavirus in March, according to the health ministry’s preliminary investigations.

The minister said one case developed flu-like symptoms in March but all three are currently asymptomatic.

Fifty-nine of their contacts have taken the swab test for coronavirus, with 20 testing negative while the rest are awaiting results.

Investigation is still ongoing to determine their source of infection.

With the rise in number of infections in Belait, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said his ministry plans to set up another centre to increase surveillance testing in the district.

Full statement from MoH:

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Brunei reports one new case in 17 days

3.58pm | May 6, 2020

The health ministry has confirmed Brunei’s first new coronavirus case in 17 days, raising the total number of infections to 139 on Wednesday.

During his daily press briefing, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a 40-year-old man tested positive for the coronavirus during the random diagnostic testing at public health centres.

Investigation and contact tracing are underway to ascertain his source of infection.

The minister said it is important for the public to stay vigilant, even though the country recorded zero new cases for the past 16 days.

“We are still in an emergency situation, we may not be under lockdown but the public need to remember that even though there have not been many infections recently, the concern is still there,” he added.

The government has yet to decide on resetting the 28-day countdown of easing coronavirus curbs despite reporting the first new case in 17 days, with the minister saying the decision would depend on contact tracing to determine whether there is widespread community transmission.

There are now seven active cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre (NIC) as no recoveries were reported in the past 24 hours.

Two more recovered patients have been readmitted to the NIC after testing positive for a second time, bringing the cumulative tally of relapse cases to 24.

When asked for an update on the Limbang case who contracted the virus after recently travelling to Brunei, the minister said it is highly unlikely that there will be infections linked to the Limbang cluster in Brunei as all of his contacts here returned negative test results.

Full statement from MoH:

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Over 200 companies applied for 25% wage subsidy; COVID-19 Relief Fund raises $9.82 million

7.18pm | May 5, 2020

A total of 211 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have applied for the government’s 25 percent wage subsidy scheme, according to data from the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

The wage subsidy scheme was introduced on March 28 to pay a portion of MSME employees’ salaries for three months as part of the government’s economic stimulus measures to weather the downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 211 employers have a cumulative total of 2,203 staff, second finance and economy minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

When asked the number of businesses that have sought a deferral of social security contributions, the minister said 139 companies with a collective total of 1,428 employees have applied for the deferment of Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) payments.

The six-month deferral of social security contributions started in April, enabling companies to repay the government within one year after the deferral period.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin further said the COVID-19 Relief Fund has collected $9.82 million since it was launched on March 21.

Describing the amount of donations as “very encouraging”, he said the fund may be used to pay for the new $11 million National Isolation Centre extension building.


No significant rise in unemployment due to COVID-19, says MoFE

6.38pm | May 5, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a “minimal impact” on local unemployment rates as over 400 jobs have been created since the government introduced economic relief measures during the outbreak, the second minister of finance and economy said.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said based on numbers from the Employees Trust Fund, the coronavirus crisis has not resulted in a major increase in unemployment figures.

However, he acknowledged that it is difficult to determine the specific number of jobless individuals as not all unemployed Bruneians register with JobCentre.

The latest government statistics showed that Brunei’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.7 percent in 2018 to 6.8 percent last year.

Responding to a reporter’s question on the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment, the minister said 272 jobs have been created in the private sector since March.

In addition, companies have also expressed interest in hiring 140 graduates of Higher National Diploma as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training under the i-Ready apprenticeship programme.

The minister said, “It’s not as bad as what we feared at the outset because most of the businesses are still operating like normal with the exception of restaurants which can only do takeaway but of course the most heavily impacted sector is still tourism and also gym operators.

“The rest of the businesses are still running close to normal, so that’s why I don’t foresee [a big number of] people losing their jobs, if any,” he added.


Gov’t permits transport operators to conduct cross-border delivery of goods

5.21pm | May 5, 2020

Brunei and Malaysia-registered commercial transport operators including runners will be permitted to conduct cross-border delivery of goods and parcels in the government’s easing of coronavirus curbs.

Starting May 6, transport operators can carry out point-to-point delivery services but must return to their country of origin on the same day, the second minister of finance and economy said on Tuesday.

Announcing the amended guidelines for transport operators in a press briefing, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said iMSafe tracking wristbands will be issued to transport operators at border control posts to ensure they abide by the same-day delivery rules.

He said the new guidelines aimed to continue the cross-border movement of goods and keep supply chains open to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on businesses.

The announcement came a day after Malaysia lifted its partial lockdown to restart the economy.

Under the revised guidelines, transport operators and runners must still apply for a travel permit from the Prime Minister’s Office website.

However, only runners who are registered with a company and own a commercial vehicle are given travel access.

The minister said there are currently 25 transport operators registered as runners.

“Not all 25 of them will [travel] on the same day and at the same time. We may limit a few of them [in one day], so 5 or 10 of them for example,” he added.

Runners are only allowed to leave the country once a week using a commercial vehicle.

All transported goods must be kept or quarantined for three days at transport operators’ premises before they can be delivered to customers.

Transport operators and runners are also required to update their health status daily through the self-assessment tool on healthinfo.gov.bn for 14 days after their cross-border travel.

Members of the public can contact the 120 hotline for more information on the latest guidelines.


MoH logs 16 straight days of zero new cases

3.45pm | May 5, 2020

Brunei is inching closer to being free from COVID-19 as another patient has recovered from the coronavirus on Tuesday, leaving just six active cases at the National Isolation Centre.

A total of 131 patients have been discharged from the NIC since the first coronavirus case was detected in Brunei on March 9.

The national COVID-19 tally stayed at 138 on Tuesday with zero new cases reported for 16 consecutive days, the health minister said.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said all of the 22 relapse cases have been discharged for a second time after one readmitted patient was given the all-clear in the last 24 hours.

Two critically ill patients are still on life support.

Full statement from MoH:

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Mosques to reopen on May 29 after 10-week closure

4.39pm | May 4, 2020

The religious affairs minister announced that mosques will reopen to Friday prayer congregants on May 29, nearly 10 weeks after places of worship were shut to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In a press briefing on Monday, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said mosques, surau and prayer halls will only open for Friday prayers while prayers at other set times are subject to further evaluation.

He said the mosque closure has been extended until May 28, depending on how the COVID-19 situation unfolds.

As the government starts to loosen coronavirus restrictions, safety measures are still expected to be put in place when mosques reopen, such as physical distancing and limiting the number of worshippers at each mosque or surau.

The government will also introduce a contact tracing app that requires Brunei residents to download before they are given the green light to visit public spaces.

Each individual will only be given permission to go out based on their coloured health code generated from the app.

The minister said state broadcaster Radio Televisyen Brunei (RTB) will air a video that provides safety guidelines to mosque congregants.

Group Hari Raya Aidilfitri prayers will be allowed at home as long as worshippers adhere to the health ministry’s safety guidelines, he added.

YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin further said this year’s national Nuzul Al-Quran commemoration will be cancelled at the International Convention Centre and replaced with a RTB recorded programme on May 11.

On the payment of zakat fitrah (tithes) and zakat harta (property tithes), amil or zakat collectors will start collecting from civil servants at their workplaces starting from May 13 at 11.30pm to 2pm every Monday to Wednesday.


Brunei enters third week without new infections

3.28pm | May 4, 2020

Brunei has entered its third week without new coronavirus infections, with just seven active cases receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre (NIC).

The recovery rate increased to 94.2 percent on Monday after another two patients were discharged. The national COVID-19 tally remains at 138.

Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said one relapsed patient has also been released from the NIC, leaving only one readmitted patient still under observation.

The number of people undergoing quarantine has also dropped to 24 on Monday from 33 a day earlier.

Full statement from MoH:

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Brunei records no new cases for a fortnight

4.46pm | May 3, 2020

Brunei has recorded no new COVID-19 infections for a second week, as the number of recoveries rose to 92.7% on Sunday.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) said two more people have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre, bringing the total number of recoveries to 128 out of 138 confirmed cases.

There are now just nine people left in active treatment. Two remain in critical condition and both require life support and breathing assistance.

 

As the rate of infection slows, the number of people at government quarantine centres has also gone down to 33.

Since the first COVID-19 case was reported on March 9, a total of 2,542 have completed quarantine.

MoH will begin community antibody testing at select government health centres starting Monday.

The pin-prick blood test will be voluntary for visitors to the health centre, and children will not be tested as part of the nationwide survey, said health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.

Antibody tests are used to determine whether a person has been exposed to COVID-19 by finding proteins the body produces to fight the virus.

Large-scale antibody surveys are crucial to understanding immunity and how the virus spreads through a population. Scientists are still learning about how the virus interacts with the human immune system and many gaps in knowledge remain.

But testing for antibodies will help solve the mystery of how people develop immunity; determine the effectiveness of vaccines; and clarify who may be susceptible to re-infection.

The World Health Organization said there is currently no evidence to suggest that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and develop antibodies are protected from a second infection.

Interestingly, doctors have also found that not all recovered patients possess antibodies. 

Full statement from MoH:

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Community antibody testing begins next week; recovery rate exceeds 90%

4.21pm | May 2, 2020

The health ministry will begin antibody testing at designated public health centres next week to gauge whether there has been community transmission of the coronavirus in Brunei.

The antibody tests will be conducted for a week starting from Monday as part of additional surveillance testing among Brunei residents, the health minister said in a press briefing on Saturday.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said antibody test kits are not being used to diagnose COVID-19 as some patients do not develop antibodies after they have recovered from the coronavirus.

The antibody tests will instead be used to determine whether the coronavirus is prevalent in the community, especially when there are people returning positive antibody test results even though they are unaware of coming into contact with a carrier of the virus.

Available to anyone who visits the undisclosed government health centres, the test involves taking blood samples with results known in 15 minutes.

A total of 13,924 diagnostic tests have been administered since January, accounting for three percent of Brunei’s population.

Brunei marked 13 successive days without new COVID-19 infections on Saturday as the tally remained at 138.

The recovery rate has reached 91.3 percent after another two patients were discharged from the National Isolation Centre in the past 24 hours.

When asked to give an update on the new contact tracing app, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said it is currently awaiting approval and the government will provide more information on the use of the app sometime next week.

All Brunei residents are expected to use the app when the government starts to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions.

Full statement from MoH:

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Brunei reports no new cases for 12 days

5.00pm | May 1, 2020

Brunei is free from new coronavirus cases for the 12th consecutive day with the COVID-19 tally staying at 138 on Friday.

Giving his daily briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 13 people are still hospitalised at the National Isolation Centre (NIC) as no recoveries were confirmed in the last 24 hours.

A total of 124 or 89.8 percent of coronavirus patients in Brunei have recovered thus far.

The minister said based on studies from other countries, there is no evidence that recovered patients who retested positive for COVID-19 are still infectious.

The public need not worry about the risk of getting infected from these relapsed patients, he added.

Brunei recorded 22 relapse cases in the past month and all them were readmitted to the NIC for further tests.

The relapse cases prompted the health ministry to revise its standard operating procedures, requiring all recovered patients to take the swab test again 11 days after they have been discharged.

The ministry also prolonged the quarantine of recovered patients to another 14 days after they have been discharged for a second time.

Responding to a reporter’s question on the coronavirus-infected Malaysian who visited Brunei, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said “11 to 12” of his contacts in Brunei have tested negative for the virus.

Full statement from MoH:

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