BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – On Sunday evening the government announced the scaling down of most COVID-19 restrictions — including international travel — as Brunei enters the “early endemic phase” of its recovery plan

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said non-essential air travel in and out of the country will resume on January 1, 2022, but travel via land and seaports is still suspended. 

However, only fully vaccinated residents will be allowed to travel abroad without the need for exit approval from PMO, and their second dose or booster shot must have been given between 14 days to six months prior to the date of travel.

For residents who have not been vaccinated for medical reasons, only essential travel will be permitted with approval from PMO.

Foreign nationals coming to Brunei must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine that is recognised by the World Health Organization, but recipients of other vaccines may be allowed entry subject to government approval. They would also be require to fulfill the same quarantine requirements as unvaccinated travelers. 

All inbound travelers, including Brunei citizens and residents, must have a negative PCR test result not more than 48 hours before a boarding a flight. They must also produce a negative antigen rapid test (ART) result not more than 24 hours before departure.

After arriving in Brunei, travelers will have to undergo another PCR test but they will be allowed isolate at home or their hotel until the result is available. No further quarantine will be required if they produce a negative result.

Inbound and outbound travelers will also be required to purchase travel health insurance that includes coverage for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-essential travel in and out of Brunei has been suspended since March 2020. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/ The Scoop

Quarantine-free travel with countries on Green Travel List

During a press conference on Sunday, Minister at the PMO, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, announced that Brunei has established a “Green Travel List” that will allow reciprocal quarantine-free travel with countries on the register.

So far, Australia, China, Singapore and the UK are the first countries to be included on the list. Residents of these countries can travel to Brunei for business or leisure, but will be required to take an ART test at a designated testing centre on their third day in the country.

People wanting to travel to and from countries not included on the Green List must apply for entry/exit approval from PMO.

The minister said full travel guidelines would be released by Monday on the PMO website.

Public venues can increase capacity to 75%

As Brunei moves into the early endemic phase, the government also announced further easing of restrictions that will come into effect on December 15, 2021 and last until January 14, 2022. 

During this period, wearing of face masks and use of the Bruhealth contact tracing app will still be mandatory, and the 10pm to 4am curfew will still be in place. 

From Wednesday, all people, regardless of vaccination status, will be allowed to enter public premises or attend public events.

However, unvaccinated individuals are required to undergo ART testing at accredited ART Centres. Each test result is valid for two days.

Children under 18 who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated will be allowed to enter premises without the need for ART testing, provided that they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.

Business and public premises will be allowed to hold 75 percent of their capacity, but not more than 300 people. The rule applies to: 

  • Restaurants, cafés, food courts, markets and food stalls, cinemas, arcades, indoor playgrounds, beauty establishments, and music schools.
  • All indoor and outdoor sports, fitness and recreational facilities. (Only training is allowed, no sports competitions.)  
  • Museums, galleries, libraries and senior citizens centres. (Opening hours are restricted to 8am-2pm.) 
  • Government offices and service counters. 

Members of the public are permitted to host large gatherings such as weddings, but attendance is limited to 75 percent of the venue capacity or not more than 300 people  — whichever is the smaller number. Buffet services are still not allowed, except for dome serving, and distribution of packaged meals is encouraged instead.

A healthcare worker guides a man using the COVID-19 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

Civil service to return to normal working hours

In the early endemic phase, civil servants will fully return to the office and normal working hours will be reinstated from 7.45am to 12.15pm and from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.

Fully vaccinated employees are required to take fortnightly ART tests, and the cost will be borne by the government.

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated employees will be allowed to return to the office as long as their work does not involve any direct interaction with the public. They will be required to undergo ART testing every two days, and if they are unvaccinated by choice they must bear the cost of ART testing themselves.

Members of the public who need to visit government offices or service counters, but are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, must show a certified negative ART test.

For the private sector, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said critical staff working in manufacturing and processing, but who are not yet fully vaccinated, will still be allowed to work on-site provided they produce a negative ART test.

Schools to reopen in January

In-person learning will restart on January 3, 2022 for students under the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Religious Affairs, whereas international schools will resume operations according to their respective term calendars. 

Only fully vaccinated students will be allowed to return to school physically, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said.

The reopening of schools will be implemented in stages, with more information expected to be released on Monday.

Booster shots will also be available to the general public starting December 17. To date, 88 percent of Brunei’s population is fully vaccinated.