BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Toddlers aged 3 to 4 can head back to kindergartens from January 17, the education minister said Wednesday.

Joining the COVID-19 news conference, Dato Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said in-person lessons will be allowed for preschoolers five times a week, but attendance at kindergartens is capped at 30 percent.

To ensure the safety of preschoolers who are not authorised to receive the vaccine against COVID, only kindergartens that meet health requirements can reopen.

Kindergarten pupils will also be required to wear face masks and undergo antigen rapid tests once a week, with only those producing negative results permitted to attend in-person classes.

The minister said parents and guardians of the children must be fully jabbed and show proof of vaccination.

Double-vaccinated Year 7-9 pupils will also return to classrooms next week after a five-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, joining Year 10-13 students who were the first group to resume face-to-face classes earlier this month.

The education ministry is taking a phased approach in reopening schools to monitor the COVID situation and ease students into the “new normal”.

Dato Hj Hamzah said no students returned positive test results for coronavirus at schools since face-to-face learning resumed.

“So far, positive cases involving students were not due to school transmissions but were spread among households,” he added.

He reminded parents not to send their children to school if they are showing flu-like symptoms.

Brunei is still awaiting the arrival of Pfizer vaccines to inoculate children aged 5-11, who are expected to be the last group to return to schools.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports last week announced that child care centres will also be able to restart operations on January 17, but only children aged two and above can be dropped off at daycare centres.

Brunei to get Omicron-specific vaccines

In response to a reporter’s question on whether the government will purchase Omicron-specific vaccines, Health Minister Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said vaccines targeting new coronavirus variants is included as part of Brunei’s procurement agreement with Pfizer.

Pfizer said it has already started manufacturing Omicron-specific vaccine doses, which will be ready in March.

To date, 93.7 percent of the Brunei population is fully jabbed while 30.1 percent has received booster shots.