BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – With the number of COVID-19 infections steadily declining, most students will be returning to in-person lessons next week, the Ministry of Education announced Monday.

Child care centres, kindergartens, secondary schools, religious schools, colleges and sixth form centres will resume classroom learning on either April 4 or 5, pending the sighting of the moon this Friday which will determine the first day of Ramadan.

However only primary schools with less than 50 pupils — such as those in rural areas — will be allowed to reopen, while the rest must wait until the government kicks off its COVID-19 vaccination programme for children aged 5-11.

Face-to-face learning has been suspended since March 7 after schools reported low attendance at the height of the Omicron surge.

“The trend of COVID cases has shown a decline and InsyaAllah that will contribute to a more safe environment for learning and teaching,” education minister YB Dato Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said during a news conference. 

Brunei reported 791 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the fifth straight day of cases below the 1000-mark.

Before retuning to classrooms, the minister urged parents to conduct ART testing on their children twice a week and to regularly report their results to the school.

“If there are any students experiencing symptoms such as a cold or cough, we hope parents or guardians can send them to the clinic for treatment and not send them to school.”

He added that adolescents aged 12 to 17 who are not yet vaccinated will be allowed to return to schools next week, rescinding a previous policy which did not allow unvaccinated children to attend in-person classes.

This recent announcement brings to an end the third school closure since the pandemic started. The first suspension of classroom learning lasted from March 26, 2020 to June 2, 2020, while the second closure spanned August 9, 2021 to January 2, 2022.