BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei plans to fully reopen its borders on August 1, following the government’s announcement that restrictions on cross-border travel via land and sea will be gradually lifted.

The full reopening of land and sea borders will depend on the COVID-19 situation in the country and region, as well as the operational readiness of border control posts, said Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah.

During a press briefing on Thursday, he said essential travel through land and sea crossings will be allowed from June 15, including commuters, transit passengers, as well as local and foreign-registered transport operators that conduct cross-border delivery of food supplies.

Non-essential cross-border travel between Brunei and Malaysia had been suspended since the first wave of COVID infections over two years ago, but most air travel restrictions have been relaxed in May.

Malaysia was one of the top travel destinations for Bruneians before the pandemic, with $1.16 billion in tourism receipts from Bruneians in 2019.

Essential cross-border travellers are still required to seek permission from the Prime Minister’s Office via its website, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

For transport operators, scheduled antigen rapid testing (ART) is no longer required. However, they are advised to do their own ART tests from time to time, and if they experience symptoms, or is a close contact to a positive case.

FILE PHOTO: Minister at the PMO Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin speaks during a COVID-19 press conference. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

Gov’t eases more travel curbs

Starting June 15, all inbound travellers will no longer be required to get a pre-departure swab test, either RT-PCR or ART.

Fully vaccinated travellers can also skip testing and self-isolation upon arrival in the country, Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said. 

“Travellers who have not completed COVID-19 vaccination are required to undergo ART testing upon arrival, three-day self-isolation and will only be allowed to end their self-isolation if [they] tested negative for RT-PCR on day three,” he added.

The government has also revised the minimum coverage requirements for travel insurance from $50,000 to $20,000. All Brunei citizens and permanent residents who wish to travel abroad as well as foreigners entering the country must obtain a travel insurance policy.

However, civil servants travelling abroad for official reasons are exempted from this requirement, and are also subject to entry requirements of their intended travel destination.

Military personnel help visitors scan a QR code on BruHealth outside SOAS Mosque. Photo: Saifulizam Zamhor/The Scoop

BruHealth app scanning no longer mandatory

The scanning of QR codes on the BruHealth app is no longer mandatory to enter premises, Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said.

However, event organisers or building management are within their rights to ask visitors to scan the BruHealth QR code as a condition of entry.

In 2020, the BruHealth app was initially developed as a contact tracing tool to stem the spread of COVID.

The government has since expanded the use of BruHealth as a health management app. 

“BruHealth code scanning features will continue to be used for healthy lifestyle programmes. To this end, the use of the BruHealth app, including QR code scanning will not be completely discontinued and will be adapted for other uses,” the minister added.

Govt to cease scheduled ART in workplaces

The government has also ceased rostered antigen tests in workplaces.

However, antigen testing is still required for symptomatic individuals, close contacts of positive cases and other circumstances such as attending an event.

The public are advised to perform antigen tests from time to time.

Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said scheduled ART in schools will continue for the time being. 

Other new COVID updates are as follows:

  • Those with red QR code on the BruHealth app are allowed to leave home, provided they have a negative ART test result and uploaded the results to the app.
  • Food rations will be given to COVID-19 positive cases (with have a purple BruHealth code) and those who have requested food aid. 
  • The COVID-19 Relief Fund was closed on June 15.
  • The COVID allowance to frontliners was discontinued on June 1. However, allowance is still provided for volunteers.
  • From now on, the daily COVID press briefing will be conducted weekly (every Monday) beginning June 13.
  • Updates on the COVID situation will be published on the health ministry’s website and social media platforms daily.