Welcome to our COVID-19 live blog for June. If you’re searching for updates from previous months, all archived blog entries can be found at our COVID-19 hub.
Mosques allowed to hold group activities from July 6 in third phase of de-escalation plan
12.35pm | July 2, 2020
Mosques, surau and religious halls will be able to conduct group activities from July 6 as part of the third phase of the de-escalation plan, the minister of religious affairs said.
YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said group activities at places of worship are allowed for one hour and as long as the number of people does not exceed 50 people.
Al-Quran and Muqaddam classes are still not permitted.
All COVID-19 precautionary measures will continue to be enforced, he said adding that the use of face coverings is still mandatory for Friday prayers. Congregants performing daily prayers at mosques are encouraged to wear protective face masks.
Data from the health ministry showed that the majority of mosques and surau recorded 70 to 100 percent attendance for Friday prayers from May 29 to June 26.
There was also an increase from 30,000 to more than 40,000 congregants attending Friday prayers.
Only those aged 15 and above are currently allowed to perform Friday prayers at mosques.
The minister said fewer than 2,000 congregants aged 65 and above attended Friday prayers, while Muslims in the 15-55 age group represented more than two-thirds of the total attendance.
YB Pehin Dato Paduka Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin added that religious and Arabic schools including Institut Tahfiz Al-Qur’an Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah will enter the third phase of de-escalation plan on July 4.
A total of 216 Arabic and Institut Tahfiz students will receive laptops and 338 students will be provided with internet access.
As part of the ministry’s third phase of the de-escalation plan, the Department of Islamic Studies and Institut Tahfiz will reopen its hostel on July 5 for eligible students.
In-person classes to restart for secondary school, sixth form students from Saturday
11.29pm | July 1, 2020
A total of 90,486 students in secondary schools and sixth form centres will restart in-person learning from July 4, the education minister announced in a press briefing on Wednesday.
Year 7, 9, 10 and sixth form centre students will be the next group to return to public and private schools in the education ministry’s third phase of reopening, said YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman.
After more than three months of online learning, the secondary and sixth form students will join 43,765 nursery, primary and public exam-sitting students in resuming face-to-face lessons.
All students are still expected to continue e-learning despite starting in-school classes, with schools determining the number of virtual learning days.
YB Dato Hj Hamzah said the learning landscape has changed and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the education ministry to fast-track its plans to implement online lessons as part of the school curriculum.
Responding to a reporter’s question, the minister said the government is still assessing whether to proceed with public examinations later in the year.
The teaching syllabus has been modified for public exam-sitting students, he added.
Earlier this year, Cambridge Assessment International Education cancelled the O- and A-level exams in June worldwide, but has yet to decide on the November exams.
Starting July 4, tuition centres and music schools will also be granted permission to accommodate 10 students in each session. Only five students were previously allowed in the second phase of reopening.
The minister said school hostels remain shut but student transport is provided.
Swimming pools to reopen; gyms permitted to operate at 90% capacity starting July 6
10.42pm | July 1, 2020
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports will start its third level of de-escalation plan on July 6 for gyms and fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and golf courses.
Speaking at the daily press conference on Wednesday, YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said gyms, fitness centers, indoor sports facilities and outdoor sports facilities will now be allowed to operate at 90 percent capacity from the previous 60 percent.
The facilities are also open to members and non-members for up to two hours a day.
The minister said doubles are now permitted in sports, in addition to individual sports.
“Contact sports and non-contact artistic sports are allowed for training only. Sparring exercises are not allowed,” he said.
Training for team sports must be limited to five people in a team and activities involving physical contact and sharing of equipment are not permitted.
For bowling centres, each alley should only accommodate two players at one time and for a maximum of two hours.
Golf courses are also open to members and non-members while the use of locker rooms and shower are also permitted.
Since May 16, a total of 78,878 users have used gym and fitness centres as well as indoor and outdoor sports facilities, including golf courses and bowling centres.
Swimming pools are set to reopen on July 6 with a 30 percent capacity and are only open to those aged 15 years and above.
Public swimming pools under MCYS will be open on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Each user can access the pool only for one hour.
The minister reminded private swimming pool owners to make sure the chlorine level of the pools meet health standards.
Inspections last month showed that three out of 62 sports facilities did not meet the guidelines.
The ministry will also proceed with the second stage of the de-escalation plan for childcare centres, special needs centres, museums, exhibition galleries and public libraries.
Starting July 6, childcare centres can operate at 60 percent of their capacity compared to the previous 30 percent.
However, the centres are only allowed to accept toddlers who are aged one and above and limited to one-on-one activities.
Out of 43 childcare centres registered under MCYS, three have yet to restart their operations. The centres have welcomed back 306 children since it was allowed to reopen on June 8.
The capacity for special needs centres also increased to 60 percent, but entry will be limited to those who are at low and medium risk.
The minister added that the seven special needs centres recorded an attendance of 339 students and trainers.
Senior citizen centres received 100 members since it resumed operations.
Museums, exhibition galleries and libraries will be allowed to operate at 60 percent capacity. Group visits are allowed as long as they meet the limit of 50 people at a time.
Museums, public exhibition galleries and libraries will be open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday for five hours a day. Private exhibition galleries will decide their opening hours.
MoHA announces reopening of cinemas, Tamu in Tutong and Belait
9.09pm | July 1, 2020
Cinemas will resume operations from July 6 while eateries can host 80 percent of their total seating capacity as part of the third phase of easing coronavirus curbs, the home affairs minister said on Wednesday.
Cinemas must restrict the number of visitors at 30 percent of their maximum capacity at a time and use BruHealth’s QR code, said YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong.
Cinemagoers must reserve their seats and purchase their tickets online, but those who are aged 15 and below are not permitted to enter cinemas.
Eating and drinking are banned at cinemas.
As part of safety guidelines, cleaning and disinfection of seats must be done every time a movie ends while cinemagoers should be kept at least two seats apart.
Staff are also required to wear protective face masks, provide hand sanitisers and conduct temperature checks on cinema visitors.
The minister further said the weekly Pasarneka & Tamu Tutong Complex and Pasarneka Seria will reopen on July 9 after more than three months of closure.
The bi-weekly Tutong Tamu, which operates on Thursdays and Sundays, can accommodate 50 percent of its normal capacity at a time.
The Tutong market will divide vendors into two groups with different operating schedules.
Vendors at Pasarneka Seria and Tamuneka Belait will also be formed into groups and allowed to conduct their business at Pasarneka Seria only.
The home affairs ministry has also eased further restrictions on open-air stalls, which can now operate at full capacity for dining-in.
Social gatherings limit raised to 50 people as Brunei moves to Phase 3 of reopening
7.38pm | July 1, 2020
The government will relax public and social gathering limits from 30 to 50 people as Brunei moves to the third phase of its coronavirus de-escalation plan on July 6.
Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar announced the loosening of more restrictions during his final daily press briefing on Wednesday.
Gatherings that are permitted include weddings, religious and charity events and family get-togethers. However, events should be limited to two hours.
Mosques and places of worship will be able to accommodate 80 percent of their full capacity at a time but worshippers must still observe physical distancing.
Driving classes can operate at 90 percent of their maximum capacity while the limit for internet cafés is capped at 60 percent at a particular time.
The minister said arcade games and indoor playgrounds are still prohibited.
The third phase of Brunei’s reopening was announced six weeks after Phase 1 took effect on May 16. The second stage of the de-escalation plan kicked in on June 15.
No new coronavirus cases were reported for 55 successive days on Wednesday, leaving the cumulative COVID-19 tally at 141.
The health ministry will no longer hold daily press briefings tomorrow but is expected to issue statements on Brunei’s COVID-19 situation every day.
Joined by five other ministers in the press briefing, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohammad Isham said press conferences will be held when the need arises.
Three eateries fined on the spot for flouting safety guidelines
5.22pm | June 30, 2020
Three eateries were slapped with compound fines for flouting the government’s COVID-19 safety guidelines following the health ministry’s spot checks.
In the daily press briefing on Tuesday, the health minister said the three eateries failed to implement social distancing measures, including not conducting temperature screening and staff were handling food without wearing protective face masks.
The recent monitoring and enforcement operation saw law enforcers visiting 21 eateries in Bandar Seri Begawan, said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.
Law enforcers were given the authority to issue compound fines of up to $5,000 under the Infectious Diseases Act.
While the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control in Brunei, the minister said businesses must still adhere to public health measures as the coronavirus is still prevalent in other countries.
“There are still concerns over COVID-19. Each and every one of us must be responsible in following social distancing measures,” he said.
The health ministry is expected to conduct more spot checks at business premises across the four districts.
Brunei registered zero new coronavirus cases for 54 straight days on Tuesday, with the national COVID-19 tally maintained at 141.
Yellow BruHealth code holders can perform Friday prayers from July 3 as Brunei remains free of new cases
5.05pm | June 29, 2020
Muslims who have been issued with a yellow health code on the BruHealth app can start performing Friday prayers at mosques and other places of worship this week, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said on Monday.
The announcement came a month after mosques reopened to a limited number of worshippers following a 10-week closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, the government only allowed those with green BruHealth codes to attend Friday prayers at mosques.
Friday prayer congregants are still required to reserve a place at mosques on the BruHealth app.
About 88 percent of Brunei’s population have registered on the contact tracing app since it was launched on May 14, according to figures from the health ministry.
Brunei remained free of new coronavirus cases for 53 straight days on Monday as the cumulative COVID-19 tally stayed at 141.
MoH warns against use of disinfectant tunnels; no additional cases for 52 days
3.39pm | June 29, 2020
The health ministry has warned members of the public and businesses against using disinfectant tunnels or chambers that spray on people who do not have personal protective equipment (PPE).
Disinfection by spraying can cause irritation or damage to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, it added in a statement on Monday.
Disinfectant tunnels are used in some countries to combat the spread of COVID-19 but experts said it may cause harm to people.
The ministry said those who are exposed to chemical disinfectants may experience dizziness, vomitting and other side effects.
Anyone who developed symptoms after using disinfectant tunnels or devices are urged to consult a doctor immediately.
No new coronavirus cases were reported in Brunei on Sunday, keeping the national COVID-19 tally at 141 for 52 days in a row.
Some 409 individuals are undergoing the mandatory isolation at government health monitoring centres after travelling from abroad.
Twelve people test positive in latest antibody survey; MoH posts zero new infections for 51 days
5.19pm | June 27, 2020
Twelve people have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in the second serological survey, the health ministry said on Saturday.
During the daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said all 12 survey participants and their families do not have an active infection as their swab tests for the coronavirus returned negative results.
Antibody tests are usually used to determine whether one has had a coronavirus infection in the past.
The latest figures meant that 18 people were found to have developed antibodies for COVID-19 as six people had earlier tested positive for antibodies during the first round of community testing in May.
With 1,031 participants in two rounds of antibody testing, the survey’s preliminary findings also suggest that 1.1 percent of the Brunei population have developed coronavirus antibodies.
Some 504 people were selected to have their blood samples taken during the one-week antibody testing at specific mosques last week, compared to 527 in the first round of testing at public health centres.
The health ministry said the survey aimed to provide a better understanding on the extent of COVID-19 transmission in Brunei and estimate the population’s immunity against the virus.
The health ministry continued to record zero new COVID-19 cases for 51 consecutive days on Saturday, leaving the total number of confirmed infections at 141.
Brunei marks 50 days of no new cases
5.39pm | June 26, 2020
Brunei has gone 50 successive days without new coronavirus infections on Friday, keeping the total number of confirmed cases at 141.
The health ministry performed 593 diagnostic tests over the past 24 hours.
About 6.1 percent of Brunei’s population have been tested for the coronavirus as 28,395 swab tests were recorded thus far.
A total of 428 new arrivals are undergoing the mandatory isolation, down from 453 yesterday.
The ministry’s latest figures showed that 401,284 people have registered on the BruHealth contact tracing app, in addition to 10,709 businesses and premises.
BruHealth users top 400,000; no new cases for 49 days
5.01pm | June 25, 2020
The number of BruHealth users has reached 400,270 since the government released the coronavirus contact tracing app six weeks ago, figures from the health ministry showed.
With about 87 percent of the Brunei population registered on the app, the government is expected to make it mandatory for all residents to use the app that allows individuals to enter and leave premises.
The health ministry previously said the app needs at least 80 percent public adoption for it to be effective in curtailing the transmission of COVID-19.
Some 10,638 businesses and premises have also installed the app, making up 76.8 percent of the total number of registered companies in Brunei.
The PremiseScan app, which allows businesses to scan the QR code of those who could not download BruHealth, has 5,858 users.
Brunei continued its 49-day streak of no new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the cumulative tally remained at 141.
There are currently 453 new arrivals undergoing the mandatory isolation at health monitoring centres.
Tally stays at 141 without new infections for 48 days
5.03pm | June 24, 2020
Brunei’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at 141 as no additional infections were recorded on Wednesday.
Giving a daily update of the COVID-19 situation in Brunei, the health minister said 539 swab tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. To date, 5.9 percent of Brunei’s population have taken the coronavirus test.
Some 418 people who returned from abroad are in isolation at government-designated health monitoring centres, said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.
A total of 399,288 individuals have downloaded the BruHealth contact tracing app, while 10,535 businesses and premises have registered on the mobile app.
The minister said inbound travellers are still required to undergo COVID-19 testing even if they’ve been screened for the coronavirus before leaving for Brunei.
Responding to a reporter’s question, he added that the government’s standard operating procedures for new arrivals will not change unless ‘travel bubble’ agreements have been established with other countries.
Brunei is currently reviewing travel bubble proposals from Singapore and China. Once an agreement has been reached, essential travel may be allowed without undergoing quarantine or coronavirus testing.
Outbound travellers to pay for swab test
5.26pm | June 23, 2020
Brunei citizens and permanent residents who have received government approval to travel will pay a subsidised rate of $100 if they wish to take the swab test for coronavirus before leaving the country, the health minister said on Tuesday.
Non-citizens, including green IC-holders, will be imposed $200 for the COVID-19 test, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in his daily press briefing.
He added that the fees were introduced as the health ministry has received an increase in requests for COVID-19 tests for the purpose of travelling abroad, specifically those who were granted a travel permit from the Prime Minister’s Office.
All Brunei residents have been banned from leaving the country since March 16, unless they need to travel for urgent matters.
Some countries have started to ease travel restrictions but require passengers to show that they have tested negative for COVID-19 before they are allowed to enter the countries.
Bruneian students who are pursuing their education abroad are exempted from paying for the nasal swab tests.
Tests are also free for those with special permission from the health ministry and government officers who are on official visits.
Some 275 lab tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of diagnostic tests to 26,848 since January.
Brunei extended its 47-day run without new coronavirus infections on Tuesday.
A total of 423 new arrivals are currently undergoing the mandatory isolation at health monitoring centres.
Gov’t to change eligibility criteria of welfare assistance
8.53pm | June 22, 2020
The government will use a new benchmark to determine the eligibility criteria of specific welfare recipients once the new digitalised welfare system starts operating on July 15, the minister of culture, youth and sports announced on Monday.
The Minimum Cost of Basic Goods (KMKA) approach and OECD-modified scale will be adopted to assess whether each applicant qualifies for the Department of Community Development’s welfare benefits, said YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.
KMKA is an inflation-adjusted amount that takes into account a typical Bruneian household’s expenditure while the OECD-modified scale assigns a certain percentage of the welfare aid to all household members.
Full story here.
No new cases detected for 46 days
6.03pm | June 22, 2020
The health ministry is set to ramp up COVID-19 testing on school staff this week as no new coronavirus cases were detected for 46 straight days on Monday.
Speaking during his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 10 percent of primary school teachers will take the swab test for coronavirus.
Over 20,000 nursery and primary school students returned to schools last Thursday following the start of the education ministry’s second phase of school reopening.
The health ministry administered 2,384 random tests from June 1-21 as part of its expanded surveillance, including 1,756 tests on preschool and childcare centre staff.
A total of 26,571 diagnostic tests have been conducted since January, which is equivalent to about 5.7 percent of Brunei’s population.
Brunei’s cumulative COVID-19 tally stands at 141 with three deaths.
No new cases for 45 days
11.48pm | June 21, 2020
Brunei on Sunday reported no new coronavirus cases for 45 consecutive days.
The Ministry of Health also reported that 395,164 people have been registered on BruHealth, the government’s contact tracing app. The number equals roughly 85 percent of the country’s population.
A total of 10,123 businesses and premises have also registered on the app, so that patrons can scan a QR code as they enter.
MoH has also released a summary of guidelines for various businesses and premises as Brunei de-escalates social distancing measures.
Brunei receives ‘travel bubble’ proposals from three countries; MoH reports zero new cases for 44 days
5.48pm | June 20, 2020
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has received two official offers from China and Singapore to restart bilateral travel, while waiting for Malaysia to submit their formal proposal that allows Bruneians to cross the border.
In a press briefing on Saturday, second foreign affairs minister YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof said the government is studying the proposals from China and Singapore, which were received on May 29 and June 3 respectively.
He said four government agencies – MFA, health ministry, home affairs ministry and Prime Minister’s Office – have started discussions on the ‘travel bubble’ proposals but Brunei has yet to reach a decision.
‘Travel bubbles’ refer to agreements between two or more countries that will allow their citizens who are on essential trips to enter the countries without quarantine requirements.
On Friday, Malaysian defence minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Bruneians can enter Malaysia without taking the COVID-19 test and undergoing quarantine but this is subject to a reciprocal agreement with the Brunei government.
YB Dato Hj Erywan said Brunei will study the suitability of the requirements stated in the proposal and whether the countries are ready to resume international travel.
“We will consider whether we can go along with those proposals or whether we can make counter-proposals… to align our understanding in terms of processes and procedures so that we are confident of each other.
“I think the most important part is to slowly regain confidence in regional and international travel,” the minister added.
He said there is no time frame for Brunei to decide on the ‘travel bubble’ plans.
All three countries have restarted their economies, but Beijing has recently reported a rise in COVID-19 infections following a new outbreak at a wholesale market.
Brunei’s health ministry reported zero new coronavirus cases for 44 successive days on Saturday, with the cumulative tally maintained at 141.
Some 262 people are undergoing the mandatory self-isolation at government health monitoring centres after travelling from abroad.
Law enforcers to issue compound fines of up to $5,000 for social distancing breaches; no new cases for 43 days
5.26pm | June 19, 2020
Law enforcers can now issue on-the-spot fines of up to $5,000 to anyone who violates the government’s social distancing measures, the health minister said on Friday.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said police and officers from the health ministry have been authorised to hand out compound fines for public health offences, including mass gatherings and food handlers not wearing protective face masks and gloves.
Those who breach government directives may also be brought to court, where they face a maximum fine of 10,000, jailed for up to six months or both under the Infectious Diseases Act.
The minister further said the Health Advice Line 148 has received many complaints that members of the public issued with a yellow health code on the BruHealth app were not allowed to enter specific premises.
He said those with a yellow health code can enter all premises except perform Friday prayers at places of worship.
About 85 percent of Brunei’s population or 390,834 people have registered on the BruHealth contact tracing app, in addition to 9,817 businesses and premises.
Brunei extended its run of no additional coronavirus cases to 43 days on Friday as the cumulative COVID-19 tally stands at 141.
Another five people test positive for COVID-19 antibodies; no new infections for 42 days
5.32pm | June 18, 2020
Five more people have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in the health ministry’s latest round of community antibody testing at designated mosques this week.
During his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said more people might have developed coronavirus antibodies without knowing that they contracted the disease at a certain time.
“Participants who were found to be positive in the antibody survey and their family members have tested negative for the swab tests, confirming that they no longer have an active infection,” he said.
The health ministry began its second round of week-long serological survey on Monday to study the extent of community transmission in Brunei and gauge the immunity levels of the population against COVID-19.
Earlier in May, six people tested positive for coronavirus antibodies during the first round of random serology testing at public health centres.
About 5.6 percent of the Brunei population have taken the diagnostic test for coronavirus since January.
The minister said it is too early to declare that Brunei is coronavirus-free even though the country has no active cases and zero new infections for 42 straight days.
“To say that we are winning [against COVID-19] is still early because the pandemic is still spreading,” he added.
Seventeen people are placed in quarantine while 313 new arrivals are undergoing the mandatory self-isolation at health monitoring centres.
Brunei continues 41-day streak of no new cases
4.58pm | June 17, 2020
Brunei continued its 41-day streak of no new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as the country marked 100 days since the first COVID-19 case was detected.
The country no longer has any active cases, with the health minister describing the COVID-19 situation in Brunei as “well-controlled”.
However, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said members of the public must continue to observe physical distancing and avoid mass gatherings to prevent a second wave of infections seen in other countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the world, with 8.17 million global cases and over 443,000 deaths.
Brunei’s total number of confirmed infections stands at 141, while three people have died from the virus.
In response to a reporter’s question, the minister said the energy ministry has made it compulsory for foreign workers in the oil and gas sector to take a COVID-19 test in their home country before they can enter Brunei.
Foreign workers should take the swab test 48 hours before they board their flight to Brunei, he added.
YB Pehin Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said migrant workers will still be required to take the COVID-19 test and undergo quarantine once they land in Brunei.
Nursery, primary students return to schools from June 18 in second phase of reopening
7.36pm | June 16, 2020
A total of 20,939 nursery and primary students are expected to return to schools on June 18 as part of the government’s second phase of reopening, the education minister said on Tuesday.
During a press conference, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said nursery to Year 5 pupils will join 22,826 students who were the first group to restart in-school learning on June 2.
The total number of students resuming face-to-face classes in the second phase of reopening represents 48.3 percent of Brunei’s student population.
Acknowledging that some parents are still concerned about sending their children to schools, the minister said safety precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He added that students’ learning and mental health will be affected if they continue to stay at home.
Statistics from the education ministry showed that 80.9 percent of students turned up for in-class lessons during the first week of school reopening before the attendance rate dropped to 80.1 percent in the second week.
The health ministry is expected to conduct random COVID-19 testing on 1,500 to 2,000 school staff in the next two weeks.
As part of the second phase of de-escalation plan, tuition centres and music schools will also be allowed to conduct small classes with not more than four students at a time.
Brunei confirms third COVID-19 death; no new infections for 40 days
5.08pm | June 16, 2020
The health ministry has announced that a 67-year-old man became the third Bruneian to die of COVID-19 complications on Monday night.
The victim, Case 122, was declared coronavirus-free more than a month ago but passed away at the National Isolation Centre at 7.35pm.
He tested positive for COVID-19 over two months ago.
Brunei no longer has active coronavirus cases as no new infections were detected for 40 straight days on Tuesday.
Thirty-one people are still serving their quarantine orders.
MoH conducts antibody testing at mosques this week; no additional cases recorded for 39 days
5.12pm | June 15, 2020
The health ministry will conduct another round of COVID-19 antibody testing at select mosques this week to better understand the extent of community transmission in Brunei.
The week-long antibody tests begin on Monday as part of expanded surveillance testing for the coronavirus, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in his daily press briefing.
He said the community antibody tests, which involve taking blood samples, will also help the government estimate the rate of population immunity towards the coronavirus.
The government further eased restrictions on mosques today, allowing Muslims to perform the five daily prayers in addition to Friday prayers.
More people are expected to be screened for antibodies this week compared to the first round of testing, which involved 527 participants at public health centres in May.
Six people were found to have developed antibodies for COVID-19 in the first round of random testing, suggesting limited community spread of the coronavirus in Brunei.
A total of 25,078 diagnostic tests have been administered so far, making up 5.45 percent of the Brunei population.
Five weeks after the first phase of the de-escalation plan took effect from June 8-14, the health ministry conducted 521 diagnostic tests on foreign workers and 998 tests on frontline healthcare workers as well as employees of child care centres, preschools and elderly care facilities.
Some 616 nasal swabs were also taken as part of random community testing.
There were no additional coronavirus cases on Monday, leaving the cumulative COVID-19 tally at 141 for 39 days in a row.
MoH inspects 193 business premises; no new cases for 38 days
3.09pm | June 15, 2020
The health ministry has reprimanded a number of businesses for breaching social distancing measures over the weekend, including not using the BruHealth QR code at restaurants.
Law enforcement officials inspected 193 business premises in Kg Sengkurong, Jerudong, Tanjong Bunut, Batu Bersurat, Mentiri, Gadong, Sumbangsih Mulia during a Sunday patrol dubbed “Merati 2”.
Some restaurants failed to use physical distancing markers at payment counters and dining tables while staff did not wear protective face masks and disposable gloves, the ministry said.
There were also restaurants that violated the limit on number of customers allowed at a time.
This is the Health Enforcement Unit’s second inspection of restaurants to ensure premises comply with safety guidelines to halt the spread of COVID-19, with the first spot check on 103 business premises taking place on June 6.
The cumulative COVID-19 tally stayed at 141 on Sunday as no new coronavirus cases were reported for 38 successive days.
One active case remains at the National Isolation Centre while 67 people are placed in quarantine.
Some 279 people are undergoing the mandatory self-isolation at designated health monitoring centres after travelling from abroad.
To date, 2,401 individuals have completed their mandatory self-isolation.
COVID-19 Relief Fund collects $14.35 million
9.29pm | June 13, 2020
Public donations to the COVID-19 Relief Fund have amassed $14.35 million in less than three months, according to latest figures from the Ministry of Finance and Economy.
The fund’s committee has prepared a list of medical supplies that the government will spend on, including necessities for the new wing of the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.
The fund is still accepting public donations until further notice.
Brunei not ready to reopen borders yet, says MoFE
9.27pm | June 13, 2020
Brunei is not ready to lift its strict border controls at the moment even though a committee has been set up to look into the possibility of resuming international travel through “green lanes”, the second minister of finance and economy said.
The country has yet to start official discussions with the Sarawak state government on reopening the borders, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said on Saturday.
“At this stage, we are not even negotiating yet. If we want to [reopen], we will make sure there are sufficient precautions and [study] the COVID-19 situation in neighbouring countries first,” he said during a press briefing.
The minister added that the committee was formed to ensure Brunei is well-prepared when international travel resumes.
Noting that Singapore and China have restarted essential business travel with the establishment of “fast lanes”, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said the committee will study what steps or guidelines will need to be taken once travel restrictions are loosened.
In response to a reporter’s question on resumption of Royal Brunei (RB) Airlines flights, he said the national carrier will need more than two months of preparations before restarting commercial flights.
“The fact that we have yet to announce any [resumption of flights] means we are still quite a few months away from the actual reopening,” the minister added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced RB Airlines to suspend most of its flights since March, with the flag carrier flying to five destinations in June.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin, who is also the chairman of RB Airlines’ board of directors, said aviation industry experts have predicted that it might take three years before international travel can return to normal.
The uncertainty of air travel meant that businesses in the tourism sector will need to start evaluating their next course of action, he added.
“Workers might want to look into doing something else while waiting for the sector to come back in full swing.”
The minister said the pandemic has also created domestic tourism opportunities, including staycations at local hotels.
“Domestic tourism is something we encourage the tourism sector to focus on… to look at how we can continue to survive in this environment,” he added.
Gov’t reopens museums, public libraries, internet cafés and senior citizens centres
8.55pm | June 13, 2020
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports will reopen senior citizen centres, museums, exhibition galleries and libraries on Monday (June 15) while gyms and sports facilities will be allowed to host more people as part of the government’s further easing of restrictions.
Joining the daily press conference, YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said senior citizen centres, museums, exhibition galleries and libraries are only allowed to operate at 30 percent of their capacity.
Only those who are low risk and not suffering from chronic diseases can visit the public facilities.
For museums, exhibition galleries and libraries, group activities are allowed but limited to 30 people depending on the size of the venue. Outdoor activities are still banned.
The public facilities, which have been closed for nearly three months, will be open for three days a week for five hours.
Museums, public exhibition galleries and libraries will open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday while private exhibition gallery owners will decide their opening hours.
The ministry will also proceed with the second phase of reopening gyms and fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sport facilities as well as golf courses on Monday.
YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan said gyms, fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities are now permitted to operate at 60 percent capacity compared to the 30 percent limit set previously.
The ministry has also updated guidelines for golf courses with up to four players per flight, but the use of buggy vehicles is still limited to one user at a time.
Organised and contact sports are still not allowed.
Each user must make advance bookings at gyms and sports facilities as well as download the BruHealth application for QR code registration.
Owners of sports facilities must also set up a reservation system and schedule to ensure the safety of their staff and users.
Brunei enters second phase of de-escalation plan; MoH finds no new cases for 37 days
6.36pm | June 13, 2020
Brunei will move to the second stage of the government’s four-phased de-escalation plan on June 15 as mosques and eateries are given the green light to further ease social distancing measures, the health minister announced in a press conference on Saturday.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has given his consent to proceed to the next phase of relaxing coronavirus curbs after taking into account that the COVID-19 situation is under control in the country.
The health ministry has not detected new coronavirus cases for 37 days in a row, with the total number of confirmed infections maintained at 141 on Saturday.
As part of the second phase of re-opening, restaurants, cafés and food courts will be able to operate at 60 percent of their full seating capacity at a time while market stalls can accommodate up to 75 percent of their dine-in customers at a particular period.
Mosques, surau and prayer halls will also reopen for the five daily prayers, in addition to Friday prayers.
Women and children under the age of 15 are still not allowed to attend Friday prayers but they can perform the five daily prayers at places of worship.
Muslims with a yellow health code on the BruHealth system will also be permitted to participate in the five daily prayers at mosques.
For driving schools, small classes will be authorised to run at 60 percent of the usual capacity.
Safety guidelines that were put in place in the first phase will remain, including using the BruHealth app before entering and leaving the premises.
A total 375,052 individuals have registered on BruHealth, accounting for 81.6 percent of the Brunei population.
To date, 7,438 companies and businesses have also downloaded the contact tracing app.
Brunei extends 36-day run without new infections
5.10pm | June 12, 2020
Brunei extended its run of no new coronavirus cases to 36 days on Friday, keeping the cumulative COVID-19 tally at 141.
The remaining active case is still in a critical condition.
In his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a total of 371,347 individuals as well as 7,257 businesses and premises have registered on the BruHealth app.
All premises were also urged to download the PremiseScan mobile app to facilitate QR code scanning for those who could not access BruHealth due to phone incompatibility. Some 2,145 premises have installed the PremiseScan thus far.
The minister further said there were reports of people ignoring social distancing measures at eateries.
Family members who live together can sit at the same restaurant table, but physical distancing is still recommended especially when Brunei is in the midst of relaxing coronavirus curbs, he said.
Patrons need to be honest and practise social responsibility as it is difficult to monitor whether customers who are sitting at the same table are indeed family members, he added.
When asked whether dental procedures such as placing braces will resume soon, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said only dental emergencies are currently allowed.
“Dental procedures are risky due to close proximity [between dentist and patient],” he added.
BruHealth reaches 80% of Brunei population; MoH reports no new cases for 35 straight days
6.06pm | June 11, 2020
The number of BruHealth users has topped the government’s target of 80 percent public participation on Thursday, according to figures from the health ministry.
A total of 368,599 people have registered as BruHealth users, less than a month after the smartphone app was released to facilitate COVID-19 contact tracing.
The health ministry previously said the contact tracing app needs at least 80 percent of Brunei’s population to download for it to be considered effective in curtailing the spread of COVID-19.
Some 7,063 businesses and premises have also signed on BruHealth, making up 51 percent of 13,838 registered companies in Brunei.
More than 2,000 business premises have further installed the PremiseScan mobile app, which allows businesses to scan the QR codes of those who could not access BruHealth.
No new coronavirus cases were reported for 35 straight days on Thursday as the cumulative COVID-tally remained at 141.
One remaining active case is being treated at the National Isolation Centre while 88 people are undergoing quarantine.
Brunei sets up committee to hold talks on easing travel restrictions
5.17pm | June 11, 2020
A committee has been set up to discuss the possibility of establishing “green lanes” for international travel once Brunei starts lifting its border controls, the health minister said in a press briefing on Thursday.
The green lanes or “travel bubbles” are formed when a set of countries agree to open their borders to each other while shutting their borders to other countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the committee will study how the travel bubble concept can be coordinated or implemented if Brunei has reached an understanding with other countries.
The minister was asked for his comments on Malaysia and Singapore in discussions to establish the green lanes and restart international connectivity.
However, he said it is still too early for Brunei to reopen its borders as the country is still in its first phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.
The government is expected to lift border controls during the last phase of its de-escalation plan.
Brunei banned its citizens and foreigners from leaving the country on March 16 to reduce the number of imported COVID-19 cases.
Brunei not sending Haj pilgrims to Mecca this year over coronavirus fears
7.09pm | June 10, 2020
The religious affairs minister has announced that Brunei will not be sending 1,000 of its Haj pilgrims to Mecca this year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Explaining the decision to cancel this year’s Haj in a press conference, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said the spread of COVID-19 still poses a global threat to pilgrims.
While Saudi Arabia has not announced its decision to cancel the annual pilgrimage, the minister said it may still be unsafe to visit as it is unknown when the pandemic will end.
With the Haj season expected to start in late July, the Saudi government has yet to reopen the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the holy site of the Haj pilgrimage.
The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi soared past 100,000 on Tuesday.
YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin further said Haj preparations could not proceed as the issuance of Haj visas have been frozen while flight and hotel reservations could not be made.
“We are short of time to process everything even if the Haj is open to pilgrims,” he added.
This year’s prospective Haj pilgrims have been advised to contact their travel agents on the next course of action, including seeking refunds.
Speaking on the partial reopening of mosques, he said 43,903 Muslims booked a spot to attend Friday prayers but 35,556 turned up at mosques last week.
Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar has also called on worshippers not to make Friday prayer reservations if they are not ready or have health concerns about performing prayers at mosques.
Those who decided not to attend Friday prayers after booking a slot are advised to click on the “I am not going” button on the BruHealth system as this would allow other Muslims to perform prayers at mosques.
Brunei posts zero new cases for 34 days
5.11pm | June 10, 2020
Brunei has now gone 34 consecutive days without additional cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The cumulative COVID-19 tally remains at 141 with one active case left, the health minister said in his daily press briefing.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the remaining active case is still in a critical condition despite being cleared of the coronavirus about a month ago.
All contacts of the two Malaysian cases in Brunei have tested negative for the coronavirus so far, while 120 people are undergoing quarantine.
The health ministry has also stepped up COVID-19 testing after 625 lab tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, the highest number of diagnostic tests in a day since Brunei detected its first coronavirus case on March 9.
No new cases recorded for 33 days
5.07pm | June 9, 2020
No new coronavirus infections were detected for 33 straight days on Tuesday as the COVID-19 tally stayed at 141, leaving just one active case still being treated at the National Isolation Centre.
Speaking on the two Malaysians who tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home from Brunei, the health minister said all 134 diagnostic tests of their close contacts in Brunei returned negative results.
During his press conference, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a few contacts of the two Malaysian cases were still awaiting test results.
He said the health ministry would not be able to ascertain their source of infection if all of their identified contacts tested negative for COVID-19.
The two Malaysians were reported to be working in Brunei before returning to their home country earlier this month.
Giving an update on the number of BruHealth mobile app users, the minister said 355,402 individuals as well as 6,212 businesses and premises have signed up on the contact tracing app.
Some 1,778 business premises have also installed the PremiseScan mobile app, which was introduced last month for businesses to scan the QR codes of those who could not access BruHealth.
Over 50% of businesses not adhering to safety guidelines, says MoH
7.45pm | June 8, 2020
More than 50 percent of business premises failed to comply with the government’s safety guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19, the health minister said on Monday.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar warned eateries that they will be brought to court if they continue to flout public health control rules.
The health ministry inspected 103 businesses over the weekend to ensure restaurants are practising social distancing measures, including using the BruHealth contact tracing app before entering and leaving the premises.
It is also compulsory for all food handlers to wear protective face masks and gloves at restaurants, cafés and food stalls.
Under the Infectious Diseases Act, anyone found guilty of violating physical distancing measures may face a fine of up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
Eateries were allowed to serve dine-in customers when the government began to gradually relax coronavirus restrictions on May 16.
All hospitals, health centres to use BruHealth
7.19pm | June 8, 2020
Patients and visitors have been urged to scan the BruHealth QR code at all hospitals and health centres.
The QR code will be available at all entry points of hospitals and health centres to facilitate COVID-19 contact tracing, the health ministry said.
Patients and visitors will also be required to scan the QR code every time they enter or leave a specific department, such as pharmacy, clinic or a ward.
Visitors can fill in the health declaration form if they are unable to use the BruHealth mobile app or Health Info website.
BruHealth users with red codes will only be allowed to enter if they are patients who wish to see a doctor for consultation or to receive treatment at hospitals or health centres.
For visitors, only those who have green and yellow codes can visit patients at hospital wards.
A total of 354,402 people have registered as BruHealth users so far, accounting for 77 percent of the Brunei population.
Malaysia reports two new imported cases from Brunei; MoH logs no new domestic infections for 32 days
5.53pm | June 8, 2020
The health ministry has confirmed that two Malaysian nationals tested positive for the coronavirus in their home country after recently travelling from Brunei.
Giving his daily press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said one case was a former work permit-holder whose contract ended while the other case involved an individual who was doing a three-month internship since February in Brunei.
He said there’s a high possibility that the two Malaysians contracted the coronavirus in Brunei as their viral load from the PCR diagnostic test was shown to be high.
“Based on information from Malaysia’s health ministry, it could be an old infection, so they might have [contracted the virus] here… maybe about a month ago because the CT [cycle threshold] ratio is high. The risk of them getting the virus in Brunei is still there,” he added.
Malaysian health authorities reported the two new imported cases from Brunei on Sunday.
The minister said 113 of the two cases’ contacts have been ordered to undergo the 14-day quarantine and contact tracing is still ongoing.
Initial investigations found that the two cases had no known contact with COVID-19 patients in Brunei.
When asked whether Brunei will start testing passengers before leaving the country, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the ministry will hold talks with other agencies and study whether there is a need to conduct COVID-19 testing on departing passengers.
Malaysia has recorded four imported cases from Brunei to date, including a 10-month-old baby last month.
The two new Malaysian cases further suggest that there is limited community spread of the coronavirus in Brunei, the minister said, adding that it is important for the public to continue observing physical distancing measures and comply with the government’s safety guidelines.
“The Ministry of Health believes that there are cases we missed before we closed our borders in March, that’s why we are doing random testing and the previous antibody testing,” he said in response to a reporter’s question whether there is community transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said more random COVID-19 tests will be conducted before the government moves to the next phase of the de-escalation plan.
Brunei logged zero new COVID-19 cases on Monday, continuing its 32-day streak without additional local infections.
The cumulative total number of coronavirus cases remained at 141, with one active case still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre.
No new infections for 31 days
10.37pm | June 7, 2020
No new coronavirus infections were reported on Sunday, with the national tally staying at 141.
Brunei has not recorded a new COVID-19 case for 31 days.
While 138 people have made recoveries, one person in critical condition is still being treated at the National Isolation Centre.
Now in the third week of the government’s de-escalation plan, the Ministry of Health said it will continue random testing among the population.
From June 1-5, 426 samples were taken from foreign workers; 481 from community surveillance; while 481 samples were taken from frontliners and staff working at child care centres, preschools and elderly care centres.
So far, 281,969 people have registered for the contact tracing app BruHealth – roughly 61 percent of the population.
A total of 6,034 businesses and premises have registered on the app as well.
‘Bandarku Ceria’ to restart on June 7
11.30pm | June 6, 2020
The weekly Bandarku Ceria will return on June 7 but group activities are still suspended, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement issued on Saturday.
The car-free Sunday event was suspended throughout the month of Ramadan due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Large group activities such as walkathons and runs are still not allowed but the public can participate in individual recreational activities. Vendors will be permitted to operate at Bandarku Ceria.
The ministry urged the public to avoid mass gatherings and observe physical distancing during the event.
MCYS announces further easing of restrictions on individual sports
11.30pm | June 6, 2020
Sports with singles matches are allowed to be played from June 3 in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The public can now participate in indoor and outdoor individual sports including badminton, squash, table tennis, cue sports, tennis, lawn bowling, petanque, archery and ten pin bowling.
Owners of sports facilities must set up a reservation system that allows participants to make advance bookings.
The public are also required to use the BruHealth mobile app before they can gain entry to sports centres.
Organised and contact sports are still not permitted.
Child care and special needs centres to resume operations from June 8
7.03pm | June 6, 2020
Child care and special needs centres can restart their operations on June 8 as part of the government’s first phase of de-escalation plan in loosening coronavirus restrictions, the minister of culture, youth and sports announced on Saturday.
During a press conference, YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said child care and special needs centres are allowed to host 30 percent of their full capacity at a time.
Individuals with flu symptoms or existing conditions such as asthma, eczema and epilepsy will not be permitted to enter special needs facilities.
Special needs centres must ensure that individuals placed under their care must have the ability to communicate, practise good hygiene and understand COVID-19 risks.
For child care institutions, only low-risk toddlers aged one and above who do not show any symptoms are allowed.
The government is also limiting the type of activities at day care centres as “development activities” are prohibited.
About 550 children are registered across 43 child care centres under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Premises that provide day care and special education services are also required to sign up on the BruHealth contact tracing app and ensure safety measures are taken.
Brunei marks longest period without new cases since March
5.29pm | June 6, 2020
Brunei on Saturday marked the longest period without new coronavirus cases since the first infection was confirmed nearly three months ago.
The health ministry has not registered a single COVID-19 case for 30 days in a row as the total number of infections remained at 141.
One remaining active case is still in a critical condition and kept on life support.
Brunei is expected to clamp down on social distancing violations as the health ministry is in talks with the Attorney General’s Chambers to amend the Infectious Diseases Act.
Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar yesterday said law enforcers would be able to issue compound fines to anyone who breaks physical distancing rules as opposed to bringing alleged offenders to court.
The law amendment will hopefully take effect within a week, he added.
In his daily press briefing, the minister further said that Brunei is gradually relaxing COVID-19 measures as there are still concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
Nearly all countries that have eased coronavirus curbs reported a second wave of infections, especially those that lifted all restrictions, he said.
The government began loosening restrictions on May 16 when six types of premises were authorised to reopen, including eateries, driving schools, gyms and sports facilities.
In response to a reporter’s question on when can members of the public start organising large wedding events, the minister said couples are advised not to plan for big wedding receptions in the next three months.
Wedding ceremonies can still be held with up to 30 attendees, he added.
MoH seeks on-the-spot fines for social distancing breaches; COVID-19 tally stays at 141 for 29 successive days
5.38pm | June 5, 2020
The health ministry is looking to reinforce public health legislation that will allow law enforcers to issue compound fines to those who flout social distancing measures.
Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said the tightening of rules meant that physical distancing violators need not be brought to court but can be fined on the spot.
Those who break public health rules may have to settle fines of up to $10,000 under the Infectious Diseases Act.
During his daily press briefing on Friday, the minister said some convenience stores did not follow safety guidelines, especially when customers were queuing at the cashier counter.
He also called on businesses and premises to register for the BruHealth app as this would allow the government to further ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Some 5,661 businesses and premises have signed up for the BruHealth QR code, making up 40.9 percent of the 13,836 registered companies in Brunei.
Once more Brunei residents have installed the contact tracing app, the health ministry will make it mandatory to use the app.
“We’ll announce it once we are comfortable with the system… some people do not have mobile phones so it’ll take some time to adjust to the situation,” YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said.
Sixty percent of Brunei’s population have downloaded the BruHealth app to date.
Responding to a reporter’s question on the random testing of frontline health workers and employees of child care and elderly care centres, the minister said over 1,600 people will be tested for the coronavirus in the next two weeks.
He added that one-to-one Quran recital and cooking classes are allowed but protective face masks are required to be worn.
When asked why are tuition centres not permitted to accommodate 30 percent of their full seating capacity, the minister said it’s more difficult to monitor tuition classes.
“One-to-one classes are much easier to monitor. We know their income has been affected but we need to be prudent as things can still happen even if the [COVID-19] situation is under control,” he said.
Brunei reported zero new coronavirus cases for 29 successive days on Friday, with the cumulative tally maintained at 141.
Over 1,900 students did not turn up for in-school classes: MoE
7.45pm | June 4, 2020
About 1,960 students who were scheduled as the first group to restart in-school learning did not attend face-to-face classes when schools reopened on June 2, according to education ministry figures.
In a press briefing on Thursday, education minister YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said 91.5 percent of the first batch of 23,103 students turned up for lessons at schools nationwide.
The first group of students selected to return to schools represents 25.5 percent of Brunei’s total student population.
Schools this week welcomed back students who will be sitting for public exams this year as part of the government’s gradual reopening of education institutions.
All classes were moved online on March 30 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The second phase of school reopening is expected to see pre-school and primary school pupils restart face-to-face classes, two weeks after schools resumed in-class learning for the first group of students.
However, YB Dato Hj Hamzah said proceeding to the second phase of school resumption would depend on how the COVID-19 situation unfolds in Brunei.
Health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said random testing on teachers will be conducted before the next phase of school reopening kicks in.
Based on his observations from visits to schools, the education minister said public reaction towards the restart of schools after nearly 11 weeks has been positive but there are “teething problems” that need to be resolved.
He said there were issues with traffic congestion when parents drop off and fetch their children, while teachers and students are still coming to terms with “new norms” such as physical distancing measures.
It will take time to get used to practising good hygiene and wearing protective face masks at schools, the minister added.
Brunei hits milestone of 28 days without new cases; one-to-one tuition and music classes to be allowed from June 5
5.40pm | June 4, 2020
Brunei has reached a milestone of recording zero new coronavirus cases for 28 days in a row.
The health ministry previously said the domestic COVID-19 outbreak would be considered over when the country reported no new locally transmitted cases for two incubation periods, or 28 days.
The cumulative COVID-19 tally stands at 141 with one remaining active case still in a critical condition.
With the slowing of new infections, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar Thursday announced that one-to-one tuition and music classes will be allowed from June 5 as part of further easing of restrictions in the government’s first phase of de-escalation.
Tuition and music schools are required to obtain their QR code for the BruHealth mobile app and conduct temperature checks at their premises.
The health ministry will also expand its COVID-19 testing among frontline healthcare workers and employees at childcare centres, pre-schools and elderly care centres.
A total of 20,205 diagnostic tests have been conducted to date, making up 4.3 percent of Brunei’s population.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham further said random testing of prison and Al-Islah Rehabilitation Centre inmates is ongoing, including new convicts and those who show symptoms.
No coronavirus infections have been reported among prisoners and Al-Islah residents thus far.
The minister also warned restaurants and cafés to comply with safety guidelines, noting that there were public concerns over some eateries flouting public health control measures.
“The Ministry of Health takes this seriously. We plan to do spot checks in the future and anyone who violates the regulations will be brought to court,” he said in a response to a reporter’s question on what kind of action will be taken against eateries that do not follow safety rules.
“There shouldn’t be any excuse [for restaurants and cafés] as the rules have been publicised for two to three times,” he added.
Haj pilgrimage still in doubt
11.15pm | June 3, 2020
The Ministry of Religious Affairs said Muslim pilgrims are still waiting for an announcement from Saudi Arabia on whether the annual Haj pilgrimage has been suspended due to COVID-19.
While the Saudi government has yet to make any formal announcement, analysts say it is likely the Haj — which is set to take place at the end of July — will be cancelled as coronavirus cases top 6.1 million worldwide.
In March, the year-round Umrah pilgrimage was suspended due to concerns over the pandemic.
Speaking during the daily COVID-19 press briefing, religious affairs minister YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said several countries have already announced they will not be sending pilgrims to Mecca this year, including Indonesia and Singapore.
Indonesia represents the largest contingent to the Haj, with a quota for 221,000.
Brunei’s quota is for 1,000 people.
The Haj has been cancelled because of war and past epidemics throughout history, but not since the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Curbing attendance from high-risk areas has happened before, including during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Mosques to open at 11.30am for Friday prayers
10.51pm | June 3, 2020
To facilitate crowd control, mosques will open half an hour earlier for this week’s Friday prayers, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said Wednesday.
The gates will be closed once the sermon is delivered and before the second call to prayer (iqamah).
The reopening of mosques for Friday prayers on May 29, June 5 and 12 is the first part of a gradual approach to reopening places of worship. After two weeks, authorities will assess whether it is safe to open the mosques for daily prayers.
Following a post-mortem of the government’s handling of Friday prayers last week, the MoRA minister said several improvements need to be made, including opening more entry points and deploying more personnel to scan QR codes and conduct temperature checks.
Only those issued with a green health code on the BruHealth app can attend mosque prayers, said YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman.
Last week a total of 41,381 people used BruHealth to reserve a spot for Friday prayers.
27 days with no new infections
10.37pm | June 3, 2020
Brunei is one day away from 28 days without any new coronavirus infections.
The Ministry of Health previously said the domestic outbreak would be considered over once the country reported no new infections for two incubation periods, or 28 days.
However, on Wednesday health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said the situation in neighbouring countries must be considered before Brunei proceeds with its de-escalation plan.
While schools, mosques and restaurants have reopened with limited capacity, the minister said it would be another two weeks before authorities would consider initiating Phase 2 of the de-escalation plan.
Phase 2 would mean reopening primary schools; mosques open for the five daily prayers; and restaurants allowed to increase their seating capacity.
“Even though we’ve almost cleared two incubation periods, we still need to be careful,” YB Dato Hj Md Isham said in response to a reporter’s question at the daily press briefing.
“Physical distancing and mass gatherings must still be controlled… We cannot be complacent if we want to continue with no new cases.”
He also urged restaurant workers and those in food preparation to wear masks while serving customers.
Since March 9, Brunei has recorded 141 COVID-19 cases, with 138 people recoveries and two deaths.
Only one patient remains in treatment, albeit in critical condition.
MoH records zero new cases for 26 consecutive days
4.51pm | June 2, 2020
The health ministry recorded zero new COVID-19 cases for 26 consecutive days on Tuesday, as schools began to welcome back some students after nearly 11 weeks of closure.
Six hundred schools have registered for the QR code on the BruHealth contact tracing app to facilitate with the loosening of coronavirus restrictions, according to figures from the ministry.
Students in Year 6, 8, 10 Express, 11, 12 and 13 were the first group to return to public and private schools in the first phase of reopening on Tuesday, while other pupils continue with online learning.
The first group of students will attend face-to-face classes from June 2-13 before the education ministry decides to increase the number of returning students in the next phase of school reopening.
Brunei has one remaining active coronavirus case who needs life support, with the total number of confirmed infections maintained at 141.
Over 57 percent of Brunei’s population or 264,258 people have downloaded the BruHealth mobile app, in addition to 4,876 businesses and premises.
No new local cases for 25 straight days, Malaysia reports imported infection from Brunei
5.19pm | June 1, 2020
There were no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases in Brunei for 25 consecutive days, but the health minister said a 10-month-old infant from Malaysia has tested positive for COVID-19 after recently travelling from the sultanate.
The Malaysian case’s six close contacts in Brunei have tested negative for the virus and are undergoing the 14-day quarantine, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press conference on Monday.
The minister said the six contacts took the diagnostic and antibody tests, with all returning negative results for COVID-19.
It is very unlikely that the baby contracted the coronavirus among the relatives in Brunei, he said, adding that the source of infection is still unknown.
Malaysian health authorities reported the imported infection from Brunei on Sunday.
The baby was understood to have travelled with the family and visited relatives in Brunei in early March and returned to Malaysia on May 27.
“They [stayed] here for a while. They isolated themselves at their home here as they were afraid after Brunei reported new COVID-19 cases [in March], so they didn’t go out much,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham.
Brunei’s COVID-19 tally remains at 141, with one active case still on life support.
The minister further said that 258,832 people or 56.3 percent of Brunei’s population have installed the BruHealth mobile app.
Some 4,635 businesses and premises have also registered on the contact tracing app.