BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Child care centres will be allowed to resume operations under strict COVID-19 health protocols from January 17, the minister of culture, youth and sports announced on Wednesday.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin said the government made the decision after the majority (72%) of 11,566 survey respondents agreed to reopen daycare centres.

Speaking to reporters at the COVID news conference, he said only child care centres that meet health guidelines will be permitted to reopen as children under five are not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Six daycare centres have received the green light to restart their services, while 14 have yet to comply with all the health requirements. The ministry will inspect another 13 child care centres within the next two weeks.

Under the health protocols, child care centres must be equipped with HEPA air filters and operate at a maximum capacity of 30 percent in the first stage of reopening.

All carers and support staff are required to be double-vaccinated.

In addition, only fully jabbed parents can send their children aged two and above to daycare centres.

The minister said parents and staff of child care centres should perform antigen self-tests at least once a week, while children should also undergo saliva antigen rapid tests and wear face masks.

He added that child development activities are banned and daycare centres are recommended to divide their sessions in the morning and afternoon.

A total of 1,275 children are currently registered with 45 daycare centers.

COVID death toll rises to 58 

The health ministry Wednesday confirmed a 47-year-old woman had died of COVID complications, raising the death toll to 58.

Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said nine Omicron cases have been reported but no community-acquired infections of the latest variant were detected so far.

Delta is still the dominant strain in Brunei, based on the genomic sequencing of 341 coronavirus samples from November 22, 2021 to January 4, 2022.

The overall COVID tally stands at 15,532.

YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham added that bookings for COVID vaccine booster doses from January 8 to February 16 will be open on the BruHealth mobile app at 12pm on January 6.

Walk-in vaccinations are still available for seniors, pregnant mothers and special needs individuals.

As of Tuesday, 23.8 percent of the population has taken booster jabs and 93.5 percent of residents have received at least two doses.

Meanwhile, the government has revised the cost of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for all inbound and outbound travellers.

Beginning January 1, 2022, incoming travellers will pay $100 for PCR and ART tests, while outbound passengers will be charged $80 for the tests.

The PCR test was previously free for Brunei citizens and permanent residents who arrive in the country, but foreign nationals were required to pay $350.