BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — More celebratory events are expected to be held to mark His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s 75th birthday this July after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the parade and meet-and-greet last year.

COVID-19 guidelines will remain in place during the birthday celebrations, said the chairman of the National Committee for His Majesty’s 75th birthday celebration.

Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong chaired the national committee’s first meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

The committee discussed the possibility of the meet-and-greet making a return this year as well as setting the dates and formats of other events, such as the knowledge convention.

In his speech during the closed-door meeting, the minister said Brunei was able to celebrate His Majesty’s birthday on a small scale despite COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

Brunei marked the monarch’s 74th birthday with mass Maghrib prayers, recital of Surah Yassin and thanksgiving prayers as well as flag-hoisting ceremonies last year.

The annual birthday parade and investiture ceremony were cancelled while other celebratory events were curtailed with physical distancing measures in place.

InsyaAllah, with the launch of the vaccination programme, we will be able to better control [the events].

“Nevertheless, we must not be complacent but continue to be vigilant and always abide by the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health from time to time as the spread of COVID-19 is still at a critical level in other countries,” he added.

Dr Justin Wong, head of the health ministry’s Disease Control Division, also updated the meeting on the current COVID-19 situation.

Brunei has not reported any locally acquired COVID-19 cases since May 6 last year, with the total number of infections reaching 224.