BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Adults who are unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for health reasons must show proof that a medical condition is preventing them from receiving the vaccine before they are allowed to enter public venues, the health minister said.

A doctor’s letter certifying medical exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination is needed for unvaccinated individuals to access public places, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Those who are ineligible for vaccination are required to show the doctor’s letter every time they wish to set foot in public premises, as one of the measures when Brunei shifts from pandemic to endemic COVID-19.

“If unvaccinated individuals claim that they have [health] issues without a doctor’s certification, it will not be accepted,” the minister said, adding that there are plans to incorporate the medical exemption letter into the BruHealth system.

The government will impose the use of vaccine passports for residents to access workplaces, restaurants, retail stores and other public facilities when 70 percent of the population is fully jabbed.

As part of the three-phase pandemic exit plan, Brunei is also expected to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions once the double-dose vaccination coverage hits 80 percent.

To date, 63.3 percent of the population has completed the full vaccination regimen while 82.3 percent received at least one vaccine dose.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

‘Main aim of vaccine passports is to protect everyone’

Addressing a question on whether unvaccinated civil servants will also be restricted from entering workplaces, the minister said there is a “high possibility” that public sector workers will be obligated to use vaccine passports at their organisations.

“The main aim of the vaccine pass is to protect everyone. It’s not really to bar them [from going to public places], but to protect them because the risk [of developing severe disease] is higher for unvaccinated people,” he added.

Asked whether there are other methods that allow those without vaccine passes to access public places, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said unvaccinated individuals can show a negative antigen rapid test result but they will most likely be required to buy the test kits.

“It is highly likely that they will pay for the tests unless the premises pay for it, then by all means, that’s allowed.

“The government has already spent millions of dollars in curbing the virus. Hopefully, the public especially those who are not vaccinated yet, will think about their contribution in containing the virus,” he continued.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham further said the government is still working on health protocols for unvaccinated children to enter public premises, such as dining in with their double-jabbed parents.

“We are discussing ways to manage those who have not received the vaccine, especially children. Certain SOPs will be announced in the near future,” he added.

A healthcare worker guides a man using the antigen rapid test at SHHB National Stadium on Nov 4, 2021. The government is encouraging the widespread use of ART testing as Brunei exits partial lockdown. Photo: Rasidah Abu Bakar/ The Scoop

The health ministry will start administering COVID-19 vaccines to teenagers aged 12-17 on November 8, but has yet to decide on inoculating younger children.

Adults can walk in to any vaccination centres to receive their first vaccine dose this week or after the vaccine rollout for adolescents in the fourth week of this month.

However, those without BruHealth are required to return to their homes after they have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, individuals who were vaccinated abroad will be able to show their vaccination status on the BruHealth mobile app before the end of this year.

“Efforts are being made to enable proof of vaccination from abroad to be uploaded on the BruHealth app,” the ministry said.

Those who took their jabs overseas were advised to bring their vaccine certificate if they wish to enter public venues when the economy reopens and the new BruHealth feature is not available yet.

Death toll rises to 55

Daily COVID infections continued on a downward trajectory after the health ministry reported 99 new cases – the third time in five days cases dropped below 100.

The ministry also confirmed the deaths of two COVID-19 patients in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 55.

A 48-year-old woman died from COVID complications, while the death of a 40-year-old man was not attributed to the virus as he had underlying health conditions.

Five new clusters were identified, including four family clusters and one linked to the staff quarters of Pakiza Enterprise.

The number of active cases fell to the lowest level of 1,355 since August 21, with 18 people warded in the intensive care unit.