BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and Malaysia have started discussions on a reciprocal vaccination arrangement that will facilitate cross-border travel, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

The COVID-19 vaccination arrangement will cover nationals from both countries, including diplomats, students and expatriates, the minister was quoted as saying by Malaysian news media.

The Malaysian minister held talks with his Brunei counterpart, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan PDPJ Hj Mohd Yusof, during his visit to Bandar Seri Begawan on Monday.

Apart from ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccines, he said both countries also discussed a mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.

Vaccination certificates are issued to people who have received the coronavirus jab and are a form of passport that allows people to travel abroad.

Datuk Hishammuddin also met with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah at Istana Nurul Iman during his two-day visit.

On Wednesday, Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said ASEAN economic ministers have proposed a common digital vaccination certificate to accelerate the reopening of the tourism sector.

“There is no timeline imposed on this particular proposal, but I believe if it can be finalised in the near future, it will definitely help facilitate movements among ASEAN members,” he said after the 27th Asean Economic Ministers Retreat.

Brunei’s borders remain closed after the government banned residents from leaving the country on March 24 last year.

Since January 13, non-essential travellers from Malaysia have also been barred from entering Brunei via land and sea checkpoints amid the rising number of coronavirus cases.

The cross-border travel ban has been extended until at least March 10.

Malaysia kicked off its COVID-19 vaccine rollout on February 24, targeting to inoculate about 83 percent of its 33 million population.

With plans to vaccinate at least 70 percent of its population, Brunei is expected to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines via the joint UN-led COVAX facility in the second quarter of this year.

The Chinese government last month donated Sinopharm vaccines to Brunei but the sultanate has yet to authorise the jab for emergency use.