After 457 days without a single locally transmitted COVID-19 case, Brunei Darussalam saw the emergence of new cases on August 7, 2021. This marked the start of the pandemic’s second wave in the country, with control measures immediately implemented to manage the spread of the infection.
Wearing a face mask became mandatory in public places. Mosques, surau, religious halls and other places of worship were closed; and online learning commenced for schools, other educational institutions, tuition classes, music classes and special needs classes. Restaurants and other food premises including stalls were not to entertain dine-in customers and were only allowed for take-aways or deliveries.
Other closed premises include gyms, fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, leisure centres, cinemas, Internet cafes, playgrounds, driving schools, museums, libraries, galleries, beauty salons and barbershops.
Brunei Darussalam is no exception as the world is forced to move towards endemicity and live with COVID-19. In order to shift the country into the endemic state, the government introduced the National COVID-19 Recovery Plan
Premises such as markets, supermarkets and retail businesses were allowed to operate with physical distancing measures in place. Social gathering events were not allowed.
By September 7, 2021, Brunei had 1,489 active COVID-19 cases and recorded 14 deaths. Numerous assistance measures were introduced to support the private sector. This included the deferment of the five-per-cent Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and 3.5-per-cent Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) for local workers earning BND1,500 and below a month. This applied to affected sectors under the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) category with no more than 100 workers.
Provision of at least 30 per cent discount on government building rental rates to MSMEs according to the affected enterprises was given to reduce the operating costs to the intended operators. A 50-per-cent tax discount on the corporate income tax for the 2022 assessment was also given to the affected sectors.
In addition, a 20-per-cent discount was given to affected companies’ water and electric bills, as well as a temporary exemption of customs and excise duty for personal hygiene products until December 31, 2021.
Financial assistance was extended to three groups of private sector workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak for a three-month period beginning September 1, 2021. The three groups are: individuals retrenched by companies; those on unpaid leave for more than seven days due to a quarantine order or the outbreak’s impact on the company; and self-employed individuals or freelancers.
In addition, commercial property owners who have discounted rental to tenants were given relief on building tax for 2021.
The government has also encouraged everyone in the country to be vaccinated under the national COVID-19 vaccination programme. At the time of writing, more than 94 per cent of the population has been vaccinated with two doses.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has continuously boosted the vaccination drive in the country by providing mobile vaccinations to rural areas. Individuals with health problems or limited movement can register or be registered through the village heads for vaccination arrangements at their respective homes.
Brunei Darussalam is no exception as the world is forced to move towards endemicity and live with COVID-19. In order to shift the country into the endemic state, the government introduced the National COVID-19 Recovery Plan Framework.
The framework has already gone through the containment phase – to minimise the risk of community transmission while maximising vaccination coverage and accelerating vaccination rates by enforcing stringent border control and domestic movement restrictions including at workplaces, businesses, and schools where outbreaks occurred. It also prepared the nation for its vaccine booster programme.
The preparation phase is to prevent the overflow of patients at isolation centres while minimising COVID-19 deaths, serious illnesses and hospitalisations. This phase also brings the nation towards living with COVID-19 with minimal disruptions on day-to-day activities.
However, continued measures are in place to minimise the risk of community transmission. This phase also covers the implementation and expansion of the home isolation policy for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, the vaccination programme for individuals aged 12 to 17, and the commencement of vaccine booster programme for selected groups.
The third phase covers transition with the target of 70 per cent vaccinated with two doses, where reporting shifts from daily case numbers to weekly averages, focussing on serious illness and deaths. This will also ensure the continued home isolation policy for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients.
The phased re-opening of mosques and places of worship, workplaces and business premises, and schools at limited capacity and standard operation procedures (SOPs) for fully vaccinated individuals with easing of BCPs and possible ongoing low-level restrictions follow in the framework. Gatherings will be permitted with limited capacity and SOPs in place.
The final endemic phase is when 80 per cent of the population has two doses of vaccine. This will constitute a stable environment in which healthcare centres have the capacity to control infection cases, with orderly management of the criticality of patients and resilient economic recovery. Brunei entered the Endemic Phase on December 15 2021, and the phase was then extended to March 31, 2022 with the recent rise in COVID-19 infections.
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