BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The government has extended the COVID-19 night curfew for another two weeks until October 31, with harsher punishments imposed on individuals and employers who flout the directive.

The decision to prolong the 8pm-4am movement restrictions was taken after Brunei’s daily coronavirus infections showed no signs of abating, the minister at the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, who is also the second minister of finance and economy, said the effectiveness of public health control measures can only be seen after at least four weeks.

Residents are banned from leaving their homes except for emergencies or essential work under the night curbs.

Dubbed Operasi Pulih (Operation Recovery), the curfew was introduced on October 4 to combat the spread of COVID-19.

However, migrant worker dormitories have fuelled the jump in new coronavirus infections since the night restrictions began, making up 61 percent of the 1,756 cases.

During the daily COVID-19 press briefing, the health minister said the weekly average of new cases decreased from 183 to 143 cases per day since the curfew was imposed.

“We have seen [some] impact. It is small, but there are changes,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar.

Battling its worst outbreak yet, Brunei has yet to see a consistent downward trend in cases despite nine weeks under a partial lockdown. A total of 9,326 cases have been reported in the second wave, representing 94 percent of all cases the country has recorded since the start of the pandemic.

The Hua Ho Department Store at Yayasan Shopping Complex is virtually deserted after the government imposed wide-scale restrictions following an outbreak of COVID-19 in early August 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo

Gov’t to name and shame curfew breakers, raises fine to $500

Stiffer penalties await curfew breakers as the government has raised the fine from $100 to $500 following hundreds of violations in nine days.

Companies will also be issued a $500 fine if their workers were caught leaving their homes without a valid authorisation letter during the curfew, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin announced.

All non-essential businesses are required to close by 8pm as part of the control measures.

In another move to deter violators, the government will also publish the names of individuals and companies that breached the night restrictions.

A total of 306 violations were found since the curfew began on October 4, including 33 on Tuesday.

The finance minister said every employer has the responsibility to ensure their workers comply with COVID-19 guidelines to reduce community transmissions.

Pamphlets in various languages will be disseminated to all communities in the country, allowing employers to provide more detailed explanation of the movement restrictions to their staff, he added.

About 500 people applied for financial aid

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said about 500 applications for financial aid were received on the National Welfare System after his ministry announced on October 2 a monetary assistance scheme for terminated and furloughed workers due to COVID-19.

Some 300 applicants do not qualify for the $250 monthly aid as they are still working, studying or have retired, he said, adding that 200 applications are being processed.

Three groups of people are eligible for the COVID-19 financial assistance — retrenched employees, workers who are on unpaid leave for over seven days or issued a quarantine order, as well as self-employed individuals or freelancers.

The scheme is part of the government’s additional measures to help struggling individuals and businesses stay afloat amid extended coronavirus curbs.