BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei will tighten movement restrictions from Monday, banning residents from leaving the house at night except for essential work or emergencies. 

Starting Monday, people will be required to stay home between 8pm and 4am, with enforcement agencies and village heads increasing surveillance to ensure the public comply with the new measures.  

Dubbed Operasi Pulih (Operation Recovery), the restrictions will last until Sunday, October 17. 

Announcing the new measures at the daily COVID presser, the Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said with daily cases still in the hundreds, a different approach was needed to curb the spread of the outbreak.

“A couple of weeks ago we predicted that the numbers would start to come down, but it hasn’t, and this is because people are still moving around. So what we need to do is to address this differently,” the minister said.

“We cannot [solely] rely on enforcement authorities, we need the public to cooperate with us.”

Despite eight weeks under a partial lockdown, Brunei has yet to see a downward trend in new infections, averaging 219 cases a day over the past week. In comparison, the average for the previous week was 130 new cases a day.

Isolation centres in the country are at 78 percent capacity after recording 210 new cases on Friday.

The number of people with active infections now stands at 2,233, rapidly approaching the 3,000 bed capacity at the government’s isolation facilities. 

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said authorities will release more detailed information on how businesses should operate under the new restrictions within the next two days.

80% vaccination target crucial to reopening

The finance minister said fully vaccinating at least 80 percent of Brunei’s populationincluding children and adolescents — is the crux of the government’s strategy to return the country to a semblance of normalcy.

“The strategy is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible… We have [enough] vaccines, unlike a couple of weeks ago. So we can make a difference now.”

He shared that data collected over the past two months showed that 75 percent of COVID cases recorded since August 7 (the start of the second wave) were not vaccinated, while 17 percent had received a single dose and eight percent were fully vaccinated. 

The government began inoculating frontliners in early April, but only opened up vaccinations to the general public on July 5. 

“From these statistics, it shows how important it is to accelerate vaccinations. This effort is also important so we don’t overburden the health care system,” YB Dato Dr Hj Amin said.

He added that vaccines were extremely effective in preventing severe symptoms of COVID-19. None of the COVID patients hospitalised in intensive care had been vaccinated. 

“Once the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline, it will reduce the pressure on our country’s healthcare system and resources can be channeled towards making the country’s vaccination programme a success,” the minister said.

“Once we get through this critical time we can look at how to de-escalate restrictions, but this is quite some time away.”

Today’s coronavirus stats

With 210 new cases reported on Friday, the total number of COVID infections recorded since the start of the pandemic stands at 7,316. 

Sadly, an 88-year-old man with COVID passed away today, but the health ministry is still investigating whether his death is directly linked to the virus or to other health issues.

Two babies were born to women being treated at the National Isolation Centre, with officials saying all were in good health.