BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The traditional public events for His Majesty’s birthday will go ahead this year, but with a smaller number of guests to observe COVID-19 safety protocols. 

Celebratory events will include the parade at Taman SOAS, investiture ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman, and meet-and-greet in each of the four districts. However, the annual palace banquet will not take place. 

All individuals attending these events must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, organisers said on Wednesday.

The meet-and-greet and parade have attracted thousands of well-wishers in the past.

During a press conference, the Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the number of attendees will be capped at 3,000 during the meet-and-greet in Brunei-Muara district on August 1.

The crowd limit for Tutong is 2,500, while Belait and Temburong will each allow 2,000 people.

“Even though this number is more than the 1,000 person limit for social gatherings, we will make sure attendees are divided into groups, and tents will be set up to ensure they are socially distanced,” said the minister, who chairs the national committee for the sultan’s birthday celebrations.

Tutong will host the first meet-and-greet on July 25, followed by Temburong on July 27. Belait will welcome His Majesty on August 3.

Permanent Secretary of Health Hj Maswadi Hj Mohsin reiterated that only individuals who have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to attend the events.

“Officers will check the vaccination status of the person through their BruHealth app or vaccination book. Those who are unwell will  not be allowed to attend the events.

“The use of face masks is recommended for those who are at high risk of experiencing severe infections, such as the elderly and those with chronic health issues,” he added.

The two-week celebrations for His Majesty’s 75th birthday will kick off on July 1 with the hoisting of the giant flag at Taman SOAS.

The annual gerai perayaan, the street market that takes place in Bandar for two weeks, will also proceed but visitors must scan the BruHealth QR code upon entry.

Food vendors must also wear a face mask during the preparation and serving of food.

Organisers advised people to get the COVID jab as soon as the vaccination drive is opened to all members of the public. 

Brunei has not reported any community transmission of COVID-19 since May 6 last year, with the total number of infections reaching 260.