BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines will be administered as booster doses for individuals 18 years and older, the health minister said on Tuesday.

During the COVID press briefing, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said the government authorised the use of Pfizer as a top-up vaccine, as studies have indicated that Pfizer is effective in offering protection against the coronavirus.

The ministry has already started using Pfizer as booster jabs for seniors aged 50 and above, while younger adults will be able to receive their third vaccine dose from December 17.

A day earlier, MoH had announced that all adults can get booster shots at least three months after the second dose following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The approval of Pfizer for booster shots meant that Brunei will “mix and match” COVID vaccines as most adults had received their prior doses from a different manufacturer.

The sultanate had been administering Sinopharm, Oxford-AstraZenaca and Moderna vaccines to individuals aged 18 and above since its vaccination campaign began in April, while adolescents aged 12-17 had been receiving Pfizer jabs.

A UK trial of seven different vaccines suggested that Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs provided the best overall immune response.

There is currently no evidence that receiving two different vaccines causes harm, according to health experts.

Less than four percent of the Brunei population has been administered booster shots, while 89.6 percent of residents have received two vaccine doses.

Responding to a reporter’s question on quarantine exemptions for unvaccinated children, the minister said children who have negative PCR and antigen rapid test results after returning from a country in the green travel list will not be required to undergo quarantine from January 1, 2022.

The easing of travel restrictions is part of Brunei’s “early endemic phase” plan, which starts on Wednesday.

Under the travel guidelines, all incoming travellers must have a negative PCR test result not more than 48 hours before a boarding a flight. They must also produce a negative ART result not more than 24 hours before departure.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Centres for special needs children to resume operations on January 3

The government has further eased COVID curbs at gyms, golf courses, sports facilities, museums, libraries, exhibition galleries, special education and training facilities as well as senior citizen activity centres.

Outlining early endemic phase guidelines during the press briefing, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin said centres for children with special needs can reopen on January 3, 2022.

All staff at special education centres must be fully vaccinated, and double-vaxxed students who can manage themselves will be allowed to undergo in-person training.

Staff and trainees will also be required to take antigen tests every two weeks.

During the early endemic phase, all sports and recreational facilities can accommodate a maximum of 300 people at a time or 75 percent of their capacity, whichever is lower.

With the exception of senior citizen activity centres, unvaccinated adults can enter all sports and recreational facilities as long as they produce a valid an antigen test certificate.

Organised sports or competitive matches are still banned, but contact sports are allowed for training sessions and must not involve sparring.

Gyms and sports facilities can host not more than 300 people or 75 percent of their capacity during the early endemic phase that starts on December 15. Photo: Saifulizam Zamhor/The Scoop

Children who are not inoculated against COVID can also use sports and recreational facilities without the need for antigen tests, provided they are accompanied by a fully jabbed adult.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin added that the reopening of child care centres will be announced in the near future.

Early endemic phase guidelines for driving schools

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, the Land Transport Department said all driving schools can conduct in-person lessons but should prioritise online learning for driving theory classes.

The department will adopt a “four-phase approach” to the resumption of in-person highway code classes and tests, with a capacity limit of 50 percent and 70 percent in the first and second stages of the early endemic phase, respectively.

Practical driving lessons and tests can be conducted without restrictions on the number of people.

Individuals who have yet to complete their two-dose regimen must perform antigen tests before entering driving schools.