BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Hundreds of volunteers prepare and deliver food packages to more than 5,000 people under Quarantine Order every day as the country battles a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
The mammoth operation is conducted out of the Youth Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan, although there are a total of five venues across the country have been designated food distribution centres.
More than 100 volunteers are rostered every day to sort food packs, which typically contain basic essentials such as rice, sugar and eggs as well biscuits, canned food and instant noodles.
“Every food pack given is the same, it only differs in terms of the quantity,” said Hj Khairul Ariffin Hj Abd Aji, assistant director of the Social Services Section.
“Those who are undergoing longer quarantine periods, or households with more family members, will receive more so that the food packs will be enough to last throughout the quarantine period.”
Those issued with a Quarantine Order are required to isolate for two weeks at their respective homes.
Close contacts of positive cases are also required to quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative, as the virus may take as long as a fortnight to produce symptoms.
However, the volunteers who deliver the food packs aren’t always met with a friendly face.
Incidents of verbal abuse towards volunteers, security guards and healthcare workers have been recorded and shared on social media in recent weeks, showing angry citizens lashing out against the stay-at-home orders.
“We told our volunteers to handle any issues that arise diplomatically, but if at one point they feel that the situation is getting out of hand, just call the police,” said Hj Khairul.
Despite the challenges of the operation, the staff at the Youth Centre continue their work organising the food packs as well as donations from the general public that vary from food to household and personal care items.
“In this case, we would ask them if the donation is meant for frontliners or for people under quarantine. From there, we can distribute it accordingly,” the assistant director added.
The volunteers working at the distribution centres are civil servants recruited from government agencies, while deliveries are carried out by youth volunteers.
Vans have been borrowed from government agencies to ferry the packages to their intended recipients.