BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Travellers from Malaysia will be banned from entering Brunei via land and sea checkpoints for two weeks from January 13, in the Brunei government’s latest move to tighten border controls amid the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia.

The stricter travel curbs also apply to Malaysian transit passengers, home affairs minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong announced in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Under the new travel guidelines, commuters and parcel delivery runners from Brunei will not be permitted to cross the border in the same period.

However, commercial transport operators can still conduct cross-border delivery of essential goods and other imported food supplies.

The health ministry will ramp up COVID-19 surveillance testing on all Bruneian and Malaysian transport operators from once a fortnight to once a week.

Drivers and passengers of emergency services such as ambulances, police and military, will still be allowed to travel across the border.

The new travel rules come after Malaysia announced a second lockdown for 14 days from Wednesday and entered a state of emergency as its number of coronavirus infections continue to mount.

Malaysia’s hospitals were reported to be reaching breaking point after hitting a record daily rise of 3,309 cases on Tuesday, including 146 in Sarawak, which borders Brunei.

Brunei has yet to reopen its borders since a travel ban was imposed on March 24 last year, with only essential travellers allowed to enter and leave the country after seeking permission from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Last May, the government had eased travel restrictions to allow the resumption of cross-border delivery of goods among runners and transport operators.

Following the revised COVID-19 travel measures, Brunei’s health minister has appealed to the public not to cross the border through illegal or smuggling routes.

“The borders have been well-controlled so far. What is feared is smuggling over the border,” said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar, adding that law enforcers have been working hard to catch culprits.

He said public cooperation is needed to immediately report any smuggling routes to the authorities.

“This is our weakest chain, if we break this, every effort we make will be meaningless. Everyone in the country must take part [to fight against COVID-19],” the minister added.