BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has added Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to its travel ban list following soaring COVID-19 cases across South Asia.

All foreign nationals departing or transiting through the four countries will be barred from entering Brunei from May 17, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

The government has also extended the suspension of travel to and from India until at least June 13 as the Indian COVID-19 variant B.1.617 continued to overwhelm its healthcare system.

The travel suspension also applies to foreign nationals who have been granted pre-approvals to enter Brunei from the Indian subcontinent — India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh — via pre-authorised flights.

Exit approvals to the five countries will not be granted, except if a person’s employment or dependent’s pass has been cancelled or revoked, or they hold a ‘Special Authorisation Work Pass’ or ‘Professional Visit Visa’.

Diplomatic passport holders and members of the armed forces departing from the five countries will be allowed entry to Brunei.

Brunei has maintained an outward travel ban imposed on Brunei residents since March last year, except essential travellers.

The Indian coronavirus strain, which has been classified as “a variant of global concern” by the World Health Organization, has spilled over to countries in South Asia over the past three weeks.

Most of Nepal is under lockdown as concerns grow that its COVID-19 situation may be worse than India after a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Hospitals in Nepal have reported shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies as cases have increased to more than 8,000 a day in Nepal last week, compared to 2,000 a day in late April.

Bangladesh and Pakistan have also seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections, with both countries imposing lockdowns on its residents to contain the outbreak.