This is a dedicated page to covering business news in Brunei relating to the COVID-19 outbreak from March 12 to July 22, 2020.
Wednesday, July 22
Fourth round of COVID-19 de-escalation: Eateries, markets and gyms to operate at full capacity, expos allowed in malls
The Brunei government announced today the fourth round of COVID-19 de-escalation, with several commercial establishments including eateries, markets and gyms allowed to operate at full capacity starting July 27.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar announced the latest measures at the COVID-19 press conference alongside other cabinet ministers as Brunei recorded its 76th successive day without new coronavirus cases.
The government has mapped out four levels of de-escalation but the starting date of each level differs based on the type of activity or premise. Today’s announcement mark’s the fourth round of de-escalation, but several activities are still within the first three levels.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham stressed that the BruHealth QR code should continue to be used with the new de-escalation to allow the government to identify and control the source of any potential future outbreak.220720AW-descalation4
Detailed guidelines for specific activities and sectors can be viewed on the Ministry of Health’s website. Below are the latest updates for businesses effective July 27:
Expos and bazaars allowed in malls
Businesses can resume applications to organize expos and bazaars in Brunei but only within retail buildings or shopping malls.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) said that bazaars are to use the BruHealth QR code for visitors upon entry and exit, check visitor’s temperature and provide hand sanitisers.
Bazaars and expos at convention, meeting or public halls are not allowed for the time being. Booths must be spaced out every three meters and staff manning them should wear face masks.
Dining in increases to 100% capacity, buffets still not permitted
Restaurants, cafes and food courts can resume operations at 100%. Buffets are still not allowed.
Gyms increase to 100% capacity, with no time limit per session
Gyms, fitness centres and other sporting facilities can operate at 100% with no time limits for each session. Bowling centres can cater up to four people in one lane, while golf buggies can be used by two people at a time.
Swimming pools increase to 60% capacity
Swimming pools can accept up to 60% capacity for those above 12-years-old with a two hour limit on each session.
Cinemas increase to 60% capacity, families allowed to sit together
Cinemas will be allowed to accept up to 60% of their seating capacity with family groups allowed to sit together.
Other groups or individuals must continue to maintain distance at least two seats apart, while those below 12-years-old still not allowed to enter. Patrons are now allowed to eat and drink in the theatre.
The booking or purchasing of tickets should continue to be made in advance online or through the phone.
Child care and special needs centres increase to 80% capacity
Child care and special needs centres can utilise up to 80% of their premise capacity.
Child care centres can only accept those above six months old and can begin hosting group activities after being approved by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Meanwhile special needs centres can only be open to low to medium risk individuals and are now allowed to host group activities both indoors and outdoors.
Arcade and indoor playground can accept up to 30% capacity
Arcades and indoor playgrounds can accept up to 30% capacity with each visitor limited to an hour’s use a day.
Both establishments must close every 30 minutes every two hours for cleaning and ensure a one metre distance between games and consoles.
Internet cafes can accept up to 90% capacity
Internet cafes can accept up to 90% capacity but should maintain a one metre distance between users.
Tutong market resumes with 100% vendor capacity
Pasarneka & Tamu Tutong Complex will resume with 100% vendor capacity every Thursday and Sunday starting July 30.
Mass gatherings increased to 100 people
Mass gatherings of up to 100 people are now permitted with events limited to two hours.
Tuition and music schools can operate at full capacity
Galleries, museums and libraries can accept up to 70 people at a time
Driving schools can resume full capacity
Wednesday, July 1
Third round of COVID-19 de-escalation: Cinemas, swimming pools to reopen, weekly tamus return
The Brunei government announced today the third round of COVID-19 de-escalation, allowing cinemas and swimming pools to reopen at 30% capacity starting next Monday (July 6) and further increasing the customer capacity at business premises.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar announced the latest measures at the daily COVID-19 press conference alongside other cabinet ministers as Brunei recorded its 55th successive day without new coronavirus cases.
The third round of lifting restrictions follows the second round on June 15 and the first round on May 16. Restrictions on activities and premises currently follow a four level de-escalation plan but with varying timelines of implementation.De-escalation-Plan-Implementation_2-for-website
Detailed guidelines for specific activities and sectors can be viewed on the Ministry of Health’s website.
Below are the latest updates for businesses:
Cinemas to reopen at 30% capacity
Cinemas have been given the green light to open from July 6 at 30% capacity for those above 15-years-old.
Tickets must be sold online and the BruHealth QR code is to be used upon entry and exit. Eating and drinking is not allowed within the theatre, and visitors must be kept two seats apart. After each screening, operators must sanitise the theater.
Cinema staff are to wear face masks, measure temperatures for visitors and provide hand sanitisers.
Tutong and Belait weekly markets to return
The weekly markets in Tutong and Belait will return on July 9 with vendors divided into separate groups to prevent overcrowding.
Vendors of the Pasarneka & Tamu Tutong Complex will operate every Thursday and Sunday. The groups will rotate weekly, keeping the market’s vendor capacity at 50%.
The weekly Seria market at the car park of Pasarneka Seria that previously operated from Thursday to Friday and the weekly KB market at car park of Pasarneka Kuala Belait that ran from Saturday to Sunday will both be moved inside the Pasarneka Seria building, which is mostly unoccupied at present.
Vendors will also be split into two groups running from Thursday to Friday and Saturday to Sunday. Meanhwile dining in at open air stalls or markets under the Municipal Department and District Office can operate at 100% starting July 6.
Swimming pools to reopen; gym visitor capacity increased to 90%
Swimming pools will reopen from July 6 at 30% capacity but will be limited to an hour a day for those above 15-years-old. Commercial pools are free to set their own operating hours while those under the government will open on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
Gyms, indoor and outdoor sporting facilities will be able to accommodate up to 90% of their premise capacity with visitors – including non-members – now permitted to use facilities for up to two hours a time from July 6.
Locker rooms and showers are also now permitted. Sports – including contact, individual and team – are permitted for training purposes only.
Training involving sparring and physical contact is still not permitted and team sports must be limited to five athletes a team. Sharing equipment is also not allowed.
Bowling centres can now accommodate two players an alley for up to two hours. Golf courses are now open to non members.
Tuition and music schools
Classes up to 10 persons are allowed. Operators must register and visitors must use the BruHealth QR code when entering and exiting. Other existing regulations remain; including checking temperatures, physical distancing of one metre, cleaning and disinfecting after each class and providing hand sanitisers.
Childcare, special need centres and galleries can operate at 60% from July 6
Childcare centres can now increase their capacity to 60% but can only accept those above one-year-old with activities limited to a one-to-one basis.
Special need centres also have their capacity raised to 60% for individuals who are at low and medium risk. Galleries, along with libraries and museums, can increase visitor capacity up to 60%, while group visits cannot exceed more than 50 at a time.
Eateries can operate up to 80% of seating capacity from July 6
Driving classes can operate at 90% capacity
Internet cafe can operate at 60% capacity
Mass gatherings increase from 30 to 50 people
Public and social gatherings can now be up to 50 people while still observing physical distancing.
Saturday, June 13
No plans to open borders for non-essential travel
Brunei has no plans to its open borders for non-essential travel, although the government has set up a committee to oversee deliberations on the opening of its borders once the global COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that formal discussions had yet to take place with other countries on opening travel routes.
“Maybe there is a misconception or misunderstanding,” said the minister on a recent news report that Brunei is considering opening its borders after it sets up a regulating committee.
“If we open the borders it will be a matter taken very seriously, as with other countries who have imposed specific conditions for travel (such as testing/isolating) before leaving or on arrival). If we do decide (to do open borders) there must be sufficient precautions and we have to see developments in the (other) country first.”
Several countries have restarted international travel by reaching bilateral agreements for “green lanes” or “travel bubbles”.
These typically involve two countries – who have controlled the outbreak of COVID-19 in their respective boundaries – reach an agreement to allow their residents to travel into their countries under set conditions.
Brunei currently bans all non-essential travel to and from its borders, with special exemptions for work and family evaluated by the government through application.
For June, Royal Brunei Airlines operates flights to Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Singapore twice a week and once a week to Manila for transporting goods and guests with special approval.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin, who is also the national carrier’s chairman, said the aviation industry must brace for prolonged downtime and its workforce need to seek out re-skilling or training to remain employable.
“In normal circumstances, if we want to start a new destination, we would need to announce it at least two months in advance so that you have time to sell your tickets and market the destination…
“The fact that we haven’t announced any reopening of some of the existing, previous destinations, it means we are still quite a few months away from (any) actual opening,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on what Royal Brunei’s revitalisation plans are post COVID-19.
“But I can assure you there is a very intensive discussion within RB at the moment in terms of what would be our strategy going forward because things are not going back to normal as we had last time.”
The minister said that domestic tourism should be the industry’s focus, but operators need to find innovative ways to offer travel experiences while maintaining social distancing and other health guidelines.
Brunei enters second de-escalation phase; internet cafes reopen at 30% capacity, eateries and gyms raised to 60%
Brunei will enter the second level of the government’s four level de-escalation plan for COVID-19 restrictions on June 15 which will enable eateries, fitness and sporting centres and driving schools to increase occupancy from 30% to 60% of their premise capacity.
Internet cafes and exhibition galleries will reopen at 30% capacity alongside senior citizen centres, museums and libraries. Markets with dining spaces can now accommodate up to 75% of their seating capacity.
Premise capacity levels apply throughout operation hours, while customers and premises must continue to use the BruHealth application when visiting premises.
The Minister of Health announced today that the Sultanate would be entering a new phase as the country records its 37th day without new coronavirus cases and with a sole active case being treated at the National Isolation Centre.
Existing regulations at premises must be maintained include social distancing and the use of face masks for staff in close contact with customers or preparing food or items for them.
Organised, team and contact sports are still not allowed, but golf courses are now open to four players within a single flight. Buggies can only be used by one person at a time.
Privately-owned galleries will decide their own opening hours added the Ministrer of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.
Government galleries, libraries and museums will open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for five hours. Meanwhile senior citizen centres are only open to those without chronic conditions or flu and fever symptoms, and can only host indoor activities for the time being.
Brunei initiated the first level of de-escalation last May 16.
Monday, June 8
MOH: Over 50% of eateries in Brunei-Muara not meeting safety guidelines
Over 50% of eateries in Brunei-Muara were found to not be meeting the government’s health and safety guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19 during inspections lead by the Ministry of Health (MoH) last weekend.
MoH Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that businesses in violation were issued notices, and will be charged in court if they are still found to be not complying with regulations during the next round of inspections.
103 businesses were visited during the inspection code named Ops Merati in Gadong, Kiulap, Serusop, Berakas, Menglait, Kiarong, Batu Bersurat and Batu Satu.
The most common violations were not displaying the BruHealth QR code for customers to sign in when entering;not practicing distancing at counters, waiting lines and tables; staff handling food not wearing face masks and gloves and exceeding 30% of their premise seating capacity.
MoH has also advised restaurants to check customers’ temperatures upon entry and maintain good hygiene in their premises.
Under the Infectious Diseases Act, anyone found guilty of violating government issued directives may face a fine of up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
Dining in was allowed by the government starting May 16, but eateries must operate under specific conditions including registering for BruHealth, limiting their premise seating capacity to 30% and having staff preparing food wear face masks and gloves.
Saturday, June 6
Sporting facilities allowed to host select one-on-one sports
Brunei residents can now engage in a select list of one-on-one sports at sporting and recreational facilities starting tomorrow, announced the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
The select sports are badminton, tennis, squash, ping pong, cue sports, lawn bowls, petanque and archery. Organised, team or contact sports are still not allowed.
Prior to today’s announcement, only sports played on in a solo format were allowed following the reopening of sporting and fitness facilities on May 16.
The new announcement applies for indoor and outdoor facilities – both government and privately-owned – with the select sports only to be conducted in a single match format. Sporting events or tournaments in person are still prohibited.
MCYS Minister YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that May 16’s guidelines on the operations of sporting and fitness centres still apply.
These include limiting visitors up to 30% of the premise’s capacity and limiting usage to an hour at a time. Visitors must gain entry codes through the BruHealth app and sign in and out of the premise.
Since the limited reopening on May 16, 5,854 people have entered gyms, 2,342 people have visited government sporting facilities and another 3,989 have played at the country’s seven golf courses.
Bandarku Ceria returns June 7
The weekly Sunday Bandarku Ceria returns tomorrow but without group or team-based activities, said the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Vendors and businesses will be allowed to operate while the public can participate in individual recreational activities while maintaining social distancing.
Bandarku Ceria has been suspended since Ramadhan as part of wider measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The weekly morning event in the capital closes off the roads to motorists and opens up Taman SOAS to the public for recreational activities while also allowing local businesses to set up shop around the city centre.
Child care and special needs centres to resume operations at 30% with approval
Child care and special needs centres can resume operations at 30% of their premise capacity subject to inspection and approval from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
Centres that have received approval can begin opening tomorrow, said YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin at the daily COVID-19 press conference.
MCYS has already inspected several centres. Individuals with flu-like symptoms or existing health conditions that puts them at a higher risk for COVID-19 such as asthma, eczema and epilepsy cannot be accepted into premises.
Child care centres are open only for toddlers above one-year-old, with a focus on care taking while developmental activities are prohibited.
Special need centres can only accept low risk individuals, defined as those with the ability to communicate, practise good hygiene and are able to understand COVID-19 risks and how to mitigate them.
Both types of centres also have to sign for the BruHealth application and regulate entry use the QR codes while taking the health and safety measures prescribed by MCYS and the Ministry of Health.
There are 43 child care centres registered under MCYS, attended by approximately 550 children.
Thursday, June 4
Tuition and music schools allowed to resume one-to-one classes
Tuition and music schools will be allowed to resume one-to-one classes in person starting tomorrow as Brunei records its 28th day without new coronavirus cases.
The latest easing of restrictions was announced by the Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar at the daily COVID-19 press conference today.
Tution and music schools are to register for the BruHealth code, conduct temperature checks for those entering, maintain social distancing guidelines and advice people with signs of infection or who are at a high risk to not come to their premises.
June 5 update: One-to-one quran recital and cooking classes are also allowed with face masks.
COVID-19: Two weeks monitoring after 28-day period before further de-escalation
An additional two weeks of monitoring is needed before the government will proceed with lifting more restrictions after the country recorded 28 days without new coronavirus cases.
The government has allowed eateries, sporting facilities, schools and mosques to begin accepting people into their premises in a limited capacity under specific conditions last month in first major de-escalation of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference today that while the outbreak within the country has been controlled, the virus still continues to spread in several neighbouring countries.
“Brunei started the de-escalation plans, beginning with the reopening of schools aside from mosques, where the progress will be closely monitored the next two weeks, to see the outcome before moving on to stage two of the plan, which will see an increase in capacity within restaurants, schools and the like,” he said.
“We will announce it in more detail, when the time is near. But so far, what the public needs to know and remember is that we are still in a state of emergency in light of COVID-19, even though we reached the two incubation periods (28 days).”
The minister reminded that personnel servicing customers directly – such as cashiers and barbers – and those who are preparing items for customers – including chefs and delivery persons – should continue to follow the prescribed health guidelines which include wearing face masks while on duty.
The government’s online monitoring and contact tracing application BruHealth now has 272,190 residents and 5,330 businesses registered.
Thursday, May 28
Unable to download BruHealth app? Obtain QR entry code from healthinfo.gov.bn
Residents who cannot download the BruHealth mobile application can now obtain QR entry codes from healthinfo.gov.bn which need to be scanned by premises they are looking to visit.
Business owners will need to download a new application called PremiseScan – an extension of the BruHealth system – to scan customers’ QR codes from healthinfo.gov.bn which are either printed out or saved as an image on their phones.
PremiseScan functions in reverse to the existing scanning method for BruHealth, in which customers use the app on their phones to scan the premise’s respective QR codes.
The latest features were announced at the daily COVID-19 press conference today by the Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, following concerns by mobile users who are unable to download the BruHealth app which is incompatible for systems below Android 7 and iOS 10.
The codes issued by healthinfo.gov.bn and their 24-hour validity period are identical to those issued by BruHealth. Individuals with green or yellow codes are allowed to enter public spaces while those with red, blue and purple codes are required to stay home.
The minister added that PremiseScan will also update business owners on the live number of customers within their premises, enabling them to practice crowd control in line with the government’s prescribed capacity levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business owners need to have registered on healthinfo.gov.bn before using PremiseScan. A total of 233,737 of Brunei residents and 3,825 businesses have registered for BruHealth.
Tuesday, May 23
Temburong bridge opening hours revised to 6am to 10pm daily
The Temburong bridge will be open from 6am to 10pm starting tomorrow as no new coronavirus cases were recorded for the 18th successive day.
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that 24-hour CCTV cameras have been installed along the 26.3km oversea bridge.
The public has been warned not to stop along the bridge without reason and not to litter after a motorist was caught throwing garbage on CCTV. The $1.4 billion bridge was opened ahead of schedule of March 17 to allow residents to bypass Limbang as Brunei closed its borders amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
The bridge initially opened from 6am to 10pm but was shortened to 6am to 6pm two days after heavy traffic was reported. Inquiries on the bridge can be directed to the national 123 Talian Darussalam hotline.
Monday, May 22
Delivery persons should use face masks and gloves
Delivery persons should use face masks, gloves and other personal protectice equipment (PPE) when handling packages of customers, said the Minister of Health.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that delivery persons or runners doing cross border deliveries should follow the government’s previously issued guidelines or face legal action and have their permits cancelled.
The minister’s reminder follows reports made directly to the ministry about runners not following guidelines. Other wearable PPE includes wearing an apron, raincoat or poncho.
Thursday, May 21
BruHealth: Customers automatically signed out after two hours in eateries
Customers who forget to scan their BruHealth QR code when exiting eateries will be automatically signed out from the BruHealth system after two hours, said the Minister of Health at the daily COVID-19 press conference.
A QR code specific for takeaway customers can also be applied for by eateries through www.healthinfo.gov/register starting tomorrow. 2,852 companies and 180,540 residents have registered for the BruHealth application since it’s introduction last week.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar warned companies not to falsify their maximum capacity of their establishment when registering. The Brunei government has allowed limited dining in and the use of sporting and fitness facilities up to to 30% of a premise’s capacity since May 16.
Providing the government with false information is an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, reminded the minister, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 or jail time of up to six months or both.
The minister added that the government working on making the BruHealth accessible for mobiles with operating systems below Android 7 and iOS 10.
Wednesday, May 20
BruHealth app may be mandatory in future
The Brunei government’s contact tracing mobile app BruHealth may become mandatory in the near future a the coronavirus pandemic may continue until next year.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that the government is targeting 80% of the population to register for the app in order for its effectiveness to be optimised for contact tracing if a new outbreak occurs.
36.8% or 169,212 residents have registered on the app since the app was released a week ago, along with 2,552 businesses who will display QR codes for users to sign in and out using the app at their premises.
The minister also encouraged government agencies dealing or providing services to the public directly to register for the BruHealth QR code.
‘“If a ministry has various different departments under it, they are able to register for a QR code of their own for each department. It is not limited to one QR code per ministry,” said the minister.
No new COVID-19 cases were recorded for the 13th consecutive day, keeping the cumulative number of confirmed cases at 141. Four patients are still being treated at the National Isolation Centre.
Barbershops, health and beauty establishment staff to wear masks and gloves
Health and beauty businesses servicing customers directly including barbershops, saloons and massage parlours are required to have their staff wear face masks, aprons and gloves when operating.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that customers should always be spaced a meter apart.
“Businesses that offer services such as haircuts, facials and massages are to maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness of their premises as well as using face masks, aprons, gloves and to clean the seat or bed each time it is used,” he said.
Failure to comply with the regulations may result in fines under the Infectious Diseases Act. Health and beauty businesses have not been restricted in opening and serving customers directly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Monday, May 18
MoH urges businesses to obey directives or face legal action
The Ministry of Health (MoH) is urging businesses to obey directives relating to COVID-19 or face legal action after reports of regulations being flouted after the first stage of easing restrictions was announced last Saturday.
MoH Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that the authorities will be conducting spot checks on business premises and “will not hesitate” to close down and take legal action against premises that are not in compliance.
“There are still a handful of people, including certain vendors, who disregard the instructions,” he said. “MoH would like to remind the public to not be comfortable and complacent with the reduction of restriction measures already in place. Although the COVID-19 infection in our country is under control, we are still under threat from the infection.”
The minister added that there were no plans yet to re-open day care centres in response to a question from the media. The public were also advised to use BruHealth when ordering takeaways and not just when dining in at eateries.
Eateries, sports facilities and driving schools have been allowed to accept customers into their premises starting May 16 using the BruHealth app, but cannot fill more than 30% of their space’s capacity while operating.
Sunday, May 17
MoH encourages all businesses to register for BruHealth QR code
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is encouraging all businesses to register for the BruHealth QR code to enable more efficient contact tracing should new cases emerge.
1,492 businesses and 119,477 Brunei residents have registered on the app since it was released last Thursday, said MOH YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar at the daily COVID-19 press conference.
BruHealth enables residents to report their health status through an assessment which in turn generates a five-tiered colour code which regulates whether or not they should stay home.
Individuals issued green or yellow codes are allowed to enter public spaces while red, blue and purple code are required to stay home.
Eateries and sports facilities can only accept customers into their premises if they register and display the BruHealth QR code for customers to sign in and out. Other businesses are not legally required to do so at present, but MoH is encouraging all businesses dealing directly with the public to do so.
Brunei has recorded no new COVID-19 cases for 10 consecutive days, while four cases are currently being treated at the National Isolation Centre.
Saturday, May 16
Demand for chicken drops amongst restaurants, increases within households
The demand for chicken in Brunei has shifted from eateries towards households during the COVID-19 outbreak according to leading local poultry producers.
Overall demand for chicken meat has fallen from 1,426,368 chickens in January to 1,424,122 in February to 1,312,644 chickens in March, but the cumulative amount is still 6.5% higher than the same period last year, according to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA).
Borneo Bulletin reported that DAA visited poultry producers to ensure chicken meat and eggs continue to be available during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen regional and international supply chains disrupted.
However since Brunei has achieved self-sufficiency in poultry, fluctuations in local production are more likely to affect the availability of chicken in the market.
Poultry businesses who supply to the food and beverage and hospitality industry have been affected the most. In the same news report Riza Fudhlana Farming and Golden Chickens Livestock said that demand from eateries has dropped as they have been limited to only offer takeaway during the pandemic.
Other poultry businesses are reporting a rise in demand for cut pieces as the grocery industry has been buoyed by more families spending time at home.
Hua Ho Farm owner Lau How Teck said they have retained their level of poultry production during the pandemic as consumer demand has been increasing at their retail stores.
Friday, May 15
Eateries expected to distance customers seating at tables
Eateries in Brunei are expected to practice social distancing within seating at tables in addition to limiting their overall premise seating capacity to 30% when the dining in ban lifts tomorrow.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference today that while the 30% limit within the premise ensures distancing between groups of customers, eateries should also limit each table’s capacity to ensure distancing within a group.
“Automatically, this (30%) will ensure social or physical distancing, and that is why only 30 per cent has been allocated,” he said.
“Another example is that if a table is meant for 10 people, we expect no more than three or four people at that table. As for a table of four, only two people are allowed.”
The minister also clarified that playgrounds or communal play areas within eateries are not allowed to operate until further notice to reduce the risk of the coronavirus from spreading through close contact.
Brunei announced the first stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions yesterday, which included allowing eateries, fitness centres and driving schools to accept customers within their premises. The first stage will take effect on May 16.
One COVID-19 patient was discharged today, leaving five patients currently being treated for the virus at the National Isolation Center.
BruHealth verification code validity extended to a week
The validity for the BruHealth verification code has been extended to a week as people have reported being unable to receive the code through SMS immediately after registering through the app.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said in the daily COVID-19 press conference that SMS verification code issue has been rectified with all but one telco provider.
He advised public to only register once, as multiple registrations will further jam the system. The BruHealth application enables the public to self-report their health status and generate entry codes to public premises.
The app uses Bluetooth technology to track users movements which provides the government with data to do contract tracing more efficiently when new coronavirus cases are detected.
Thursday, May 14
Postal services collect 5,156 parcels belonging to Bruneians across border
Brunei’s Postal Services Department has collected 5,156 stranded parcels belonging to Bruneians from postal offices in Miri and Limbang as of May 13.
The parcels are currently being disinfected and quarantined for 72 hours according to the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC), and will be handed over to by postal services who will contact customers in advance to set a scheduled time for pick up at the Mail Processing Centre in Berakas.
The MTIC minister announced last April 20 that Brunei’s postal services had reached an arrangement with their Malaysian counterparts to pick up Bruneians’ parcels delivered to Miri and Limbang.
Bruneians who have their items sent to neighbouring Malaysian states to be picked up typically cite lower delivery costs and flexibility as certain sellers may not deliver to Brunei.
Brunei closed its borders on March 16 with exceptions for emergency travel and the delivery of essential supplies.
Inquiries can be directed to the postal services’ customer hotline at 8711002, 2380481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Restaurants, sports facilities, driving schools allowed to operate at 30% of premise capacity
The Brunei government has allowed six premises starting May 16 (Saturday) to begin operating in a limited capacity with the use of the BruHealth application in the first de-escalation of coronavirus restrictions.
The six premises are: driving schools, gyms and fitness centres, sports facilities, golf courses, restaurants, cafes and food courts and stalls and markets.
Driving schools, gyms and fitness centres, sports facilities, restaurants, cafes and food courts will be allowed to operate at 30% of their premise capacity.
Dining in at stalls and markets under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) will be limited to 50% of seating capacity.
The easing of restrictions was announced at the daily COVID-19 press conference by the Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar, who said the coronavirus outbreak has been brought under control.
Six COVID-19 cases are currently being treated, with no new cases reported for a week.
BruHealth application available for download
Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah also announced that the BruHealth application was available for both Android and iOS for the public and businesses to register.
BruHealth will provide the government with data effectively trace new cases and their potential spread.
Users are required to routinely fill a self-assessment form on the application – which together with their medical history under Bru-HIMS – generates entry codes to commercial and public premises according to the users’ risk profile.
Green and yellow codes allow access, while users given red, blue and purple codes have to stay within their existing residence.
Owners of business premises – especially those who have had their operations restricted – need to register their business and employees on healthinfo.gov.bn/register to receive a QR code that must be displayed at their premise’s entry.
Businesses will also have to ensure their employees use the self-assessment tool on the application to ensure they are fit for duty.
Users must then scan their entry codes to gain access and leave their Bluetooth on for their movement to be recorded accurately. The minister warned that entering incorrect information into the app is an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act.
Specific regulations for six premises
In addition to requiring the six premises to register and use the BruHealth QR code, the government also outlined specific regulations each premise:
Restaurants, cafes and food courts
Eateries are allowed to fill up to 30% of their seating capacity at any period, and must ensure customer seating are spaced out evenly in addition to publicly displaying their seating capacity.
Customers must have their temperature checked before entering and are advised to make reservations in advance. Buffets are not allowed.
Businesses must also offer a takeaway lane and have hand sanitisers for customer use. Cooking staff should also wear face masks while on duty.
Stalls and markets
All stalls and marketplaces under MCYS and MoHA will reopen with the exception of weekly markets including the Tutong Tamu and the weekend tamu in the parking lot of Pasarneka Kuala Belait. The Gerai Ramadhan also remains cancelled.
Stalls and markets must also observe the same guidelines as eateries, with the exception of being able to fill their seated dining capacity up to 50%.
Classroom based lessons for students can only be filled to 30% of seating capacity. Temperature checks will be taken before classes, with those showing signs on infection ordered to stay home. Students are also encouraged to wear face masks.
The Land Transport Department will shortly announce guidelines for driving (practical) classes which typically involve both student and teacher sitting next to each other in a vehicle.
Applications for driving classes and tests will also resume this Saturday.
Gym and fitness centres
Registered members of gyms must book in advance to use facilities for up to an hour at a time. Walk ins are not allowed, and operators must ensure centres are only filled to 30% of capacity at any particular period.
Sporting facilities (indoor and outdoor)
Sporting facilities (indoor and outdoor) can operate up to 30% of capacity for individual use, but users must bring their own equipment. Organized (team) and contact sports activities and the use of swimming pools are not permitted.
Golf courses are only open to registered members, who must book in advance before use. Each flight is limited to two players and each player must use their own buggy and equipment.
Full statement from MoH:140520-MOHpresstaement
Wednesday, May 13
Supply chain disruption due to COVID-19 increases price of goods
The disruption in the global supply chain due to COVID-19 has increased import prices and driven up the cost of goods in Brunei, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in the daily COVID-19 press conference that over 200 public complaints have been received by the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) of the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (JPES).
90% of the complaints were about price increases; the majority on personal hygiene products like sanitisers and face masks, while others raised concerns over groceries, especially fruits and vegetables.
The minister said investigations by DCCA showed that higher prices were due to rising import costs. He explained that the government has introduced new measures to facilitate cross-border delivery to help bring down prices.
However air cargo will continue to be affected as flights have been limited. Brunei currently only has scheduled flights coming in from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Manila and Melbourne.
Flights from Singapore are down from 14 times a week to twice a week.
“If there are items to be imported from Kuala Lumpur, they have to wait once a week and it depends on the amount of items as there is a limit on how much the flight can carry. We would not be able to bring everything in one week,” said YB Dato Amin, who advised businesses to look into shipping options instead.
“It is part of the challenge and we hope that in the future when COVID-19 starts to ease, we will look at having more frequent flights to some of the cities.”
The government has also taken steps to ensure local food production and distribution continues, including an initiative to buy produce directly from farmers to be sold to supermarkets and other shops.
The initiative called ‘Buy Local Campaign’ is run by government-owned company Ghanim International Corporation and managed to collect over 500kg of local produce in less than two weeks after it launched on April 22.
Monday, May 11
Dart introduces Gerai Ramadhan application
Ride hailing service Dart has partnered with a local restaurant with a certified five-star kitchen to roll out a food delivery mobile application called Gerai Ramadhan (GR).
The application is now available on the Google Playstore and soon the Apple App Store, and caters to orders specifically for the breaking of fast, which must be ordered the day prior by 9pm.
Like its namesake, the GR application offers almost 100 affordable local food stall staples like roti john, nasi katok, kueh malaya and grilled lamb, cooked by 15 new local vendors and GR’s partner restaurant.
CEO and co-founder of Dart Zul’Amali DP Hj Idris said the undisclosed partner restaurant has also allowed the local vendors to use its certified kitchen ensuring the food prepared is “Halal and cooked under high quality assurance measures”.
Orders within Brunei-Muara are charged $4.40, Tutong and Temburong $8 and $12 for Belait. Customers can also order from multiple vendors under single checkout and pay a single delivery fee. Dart’s pool of 200 drivers will be dispatching the orders.
Read the full story here.
5,000 foreign workers tested for COVID-19
Over 5,000 foreign workers have been randomly tested for COVID-19 since April 6 as part of the Ministry of Health’s surveillance efforts, accounting for more than a third of all testing in the Sultanate.
Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that the foreigners tested covered a wide range of professions including those working in construction, retail stores and food and beverage.
Brunei’s last three recorded cases on May 6 and 7 were foreigners working for a company in Belait who were living dormitory. However all three are asymptomatic, with only one developing flu-like symptoms back in March.
The minister said it is highly likely that case 141 was the first to shown signs and infected case 139 and 140. 114 of the trio’s contacts have been tested negative for the coronavirus.
Six people are still being treated for COVID-19.
Brunei has “flattened the curve” of the coronavirus outbreak said the minister previously, with the Ministry of Health now undertaking more research and preparedness measures before restrictions can be lifted in stages.
Six out of 527 people were found to have developed antibodies for COVID-19 as part of a new community screening effort at five public health centres from May 4 to 6.
The minister said this could potentially mean that segments of the general population have been exposed to the coronavirus in the country and developed an immunity to it.
The six who tested positive for antibodies – and their contacts – later all tested negative for COVID-19.
Thursday, May 10
Pasarpbg.com: 12 vendors sell over 1,500 items in first six days
Over 1,500 food items have been sold on the online Gadong night market (Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong – PPBG) from 12 vendors since the platform’s launch six days ago.
Co-founder of Beep Digital Solutions Denny Muslim, whose startup is operating the platform, said that the sales volume was meeting expectations but acknowledged challenges in convincing more of the market’s vendors to sell online.
Beep currently levies a 3% charge on each vendor’s sale and accepts payment from customers in the form of online bank transfer, with debit and credit cards expected to be integrated soon.
“We have streamlined the process so that vendors will simply receive a text with confirmed orders (with a cut off time of 1.30pm) which they then prepare and drop off at PPBG,” said Denny.
“The customer then can pick up from 4pm to 5.30pm or have it delivered to their doorstep from 5pm to 6pm for a single delivery fee of $4.50.”
Over 1,500 food items have been sold on the online Gadong night market (Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong – PPBG) from 12 vendors since the platform’s launch six days ago.
Pasarpbg.com was launched on May 4 in response to the closure of PPBG – home to approximately 150 vendors – on the first day of Ramadhan to prevent overcrowding during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the full story here.
Thursday, May 9
Weelago launches online bazaar with drive-through pick up
Online marketplace Weelago has launched a three month online bazaar with drive-through stations at Little Soho and Yayasan Shopping Complex to help local businesses digitise and encourage in-country spending during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The WeeLAH!Go Bazaar integrates into the existing Weelago website through a dedicated category page that houses close to 100 local vendors selling food, clothes and other consumer products for Ramadhan and the upcoming Hari Raya festivities.
Co-founder of Weelago Chris Wong said that their platform has waived monthly listing fees and absorbed online banking transaction charges for vendors, and will only retain a commission fee of 5% off the sale of food and beverage items.
Other items carry a commission fee between 5% to 20% depending on their product category. Wong said their central drive-through stations at Little Soho and Yayasan enables customers to place orders from multiple food and beverage vendors and pick up at a single location for free or pay a single delivery fee of $5 to have all their items sent to them through their logistics partner Hey Domo.
Food and beverage orders placed before 2.30pm can be picked up or be delivered from 4pm onwards for the breaking of fast. Orders placed after 2.30pm will be delivered the following day.
Read the full story here.
50% glutinous rice subsidy extended to June 6
The Treasury Department has extended the 50% subsidy on glutinous rice to June 6 to help accomodate increased demand for the upcoming Hari Raya festivities.
The subsidy was first announced on April 8 and is exclusively for the self-employed and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as part of wider economic relief measures to help them cope with the downturn caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The discount brings down the price of a 10kg bag from $7.80 to $3.80 and will be available from the State Supply and Store Complex, whose opening days have also been extended to every day except Friday, Sundays and public holidays.
Thursday, May 7
Up to 50% building tax cut for landlords reducing tenants’ rent
The government will reduce the annual building tax up to 50% for landlords who reduce or waive their tenants’ rent, announced the Minister of Home Affairs in the daily COVID-19 press conference.
Landlords will have to reduce rent by at least 10% for six months to qualify for the deduction, which applies to commercial and residential premises used for business operations that fall under the jurisdiction of Brunei’s municipal departments.
The latest economic relief measure adds on to the government’s wider economic stimulus package for businesses worth $450 million, and is a follow up to His Majesty’s address on April 13 in which he called on landlords to reduce or waive rent to help businesses manage the downturn caused by the ongoing pandemic.
The building tax breaks apply this year and are tiered according to the amount of deduction in rent to tenants. Landlords who cut rent by 10% to 14% will receive up to 20% off their annual tax, those reducing rent by 15% to 19% will receive 35% off and those cutting rent by 20% and above will receive up to 50% off.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong added that landlords of residential properties renting out to businesses such as daycare centres, tailors and convenience stores were also eligible for the tax break.
Landlords must apply to their respective municipalities to be eligible for the deduction. Businesses can inquire to: Bandar Seri Begawan Municipal Department at 2232424 ext email@example.com, Kuala Belait and Seria Municipal Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and Tutong Municipal Department at email@example.com.
Businesses can register for BruHealth tracing app
Brunei businesses – especially those affected by COVID-19 restrictions – can now register for the government’s BruHealth application to receive a QR code which will enable them to receive customers once restrictions are lifted.
Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah unveiled two instructional videos on BruHealth at the daily COVID-19 press conference but clarified that all restrictions were still in place.
The app has been sent to Google Playstore and Apple AppStore and is expected to be available for download over the next few days. Businesses can also register through healthinfo.gov.bn/register
Brunei recorded 16 consecutive days without new coronavirus cases until May 6 and May 7 where one and two new cases were recorded respectively.
The first video for Brunei residents explains the BruHealth’s functionality which involves filling in a self-assessment form to receive a tiered coloured code which approves different levels of public movement including dining in at restaurants and working out at gyms which is currently banned.
The second video is targeted towards businesses to register for the application to generate a QR code that they must display at their storefront for customers to scan their tiered code before entering.
Users’ Bluetooth must remain on while accessing certain public spaces for the government to be able to track data that will be used for contact tracing should a new COVID-19 case be recorded.
The minister added that commercial premises that are currently not banned from operating such as supermarkets and other retail stores will also have to register for the app as their locations are frequented by the public.
BruHealth will also prevent segments of the population who are at a higher risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19 from entering public spaces, including those under quarantine and isolation or who have existing conditions or non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Entering false information within the application is a punishable offence under the Infectious Diseases Act.
Local spend increasing with border closure; e-commerce becoming popular
Local spending has increased within the country since Brunei closed its borders in March to help curb the spread of COVID-19, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that some businesses in Belait have reported an increase in sales by 30% presumably because residents cannot travel to neighbouring Miri.
Brunei barred its residents from leaving the country on March 16 and banned visitors from entering the country on March 24. Bruneians spent $1.16 billion in Malaysia in 2019, according to Tourism Malaysia.
The minister said more data is needed before conclusions can be drawn, but pointed out that increasing in in-country spending would help boost employment and the overall economy.
In other countries, consumer spending has decreased overall with the exception of groceries and household supplies, as consumers look to limit their spending on essentials.
Last Tuesday, YB Dato Amin said Brunei’s e-commerce sector was growing, especially for food takeaway and delivery services since dining in at eateries has been banned.
There more than 14 verified local e-commerce platforms listed on the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam’s (AITI) e-commerce directory eKadaiBrunei housing approximately 180 businesses. The directory has recorded over 14,000 views since its launch on April 1.
“With e-commerce (growing) it allows the companies to hire more people now; we have seen a lot of new jobs being created, hiring delivery (personnel), so it helps with the overall economy,” he said. “Each customer is spending $40 to $50 on average (per order) a day.”
Meanwhile BIBD’s e-commerce platform Community for Brunei currently has onboarded 120 vendors, with another 300 in the pipeline for their virtual Gerai Ramadhan.
Tuesday, May 5
Government issues new guidelines enabling cross border delivery
Brunei and Malaysia commercial vehicles will be able to undertake cross border deliveries under specific conditions starting tomorrow to ensure the country’s supply chains remains open.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said that all transporters must return the same day of delivery and complete job sheets detailing their consignment and hiring company.
The easing of cross border trade comes a day after the Malaysian government began lifting restrictions to stimulate economic activity.
Transport personnel will have to wear the iMsafe tracking wristbands for authorities to monitor their movements. Items collected will also need to be quarantined for three days or 72 hours at the company’s respective premises before being handed over to customers.
All Brunei transporters must obtain the exit country approval from the Prime Minister’s Office before crossing which needs to be submitted three working days before the date of travel.
The government has classified Brunei transporters into two categories each with separate travel conditions. Transport companies deliver items belonging to businesses, while runners deliver items to individuals.
Transport companies are allowed entry and exit at four border checkpoints: Sungai Tujoh and Labu – where they can spend up to five hours across the border – and Ujung Jalan and Kuala Lurah which has a time cap of three hours.
Runners can only access Sungai Tujoh and and Ujung Jalan checkpoints once a week and must pick up items at a designated exchange centres located at border checkpoint itself within the span of an hour. Runners must work for or be registered as companies, and use commercially registered vehicles.
The minister said there are approximately 25 registered runner companies in Brunei, who will be allowed to travel in batches.
“So far we don’t allow them to go in one go. For example ,we will separate them into different days. For the start, we will allow maybe five runners on one day. So then we will see how it goes. If we can allow more, like 10 runners to do it on one day then we will do so,” he said.
Employees transporting are also required to update their health status every day through the self-assessment tool on healthinfo.gov.bn for 14 days after crossing the border.
For more information visit PMO’s website.
Over 600 jobs and i-Ready apprenticeships offered during COVID-19 outbreak
Over 600 jobs and i-Ready apprenticeships have been listed on Job Centre Brunei (JCB) during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that unemployment has not significantly increased since the outbreak began on March 9.
JCB has been continuously following up with companies to provide their openings, he said. As a result, 272 jobs – 150 which have been filled – and 340 i-Ready apprenticeships have been listed on JCB.
The minister attributed the new employment opportunities to Brunei’s major industries continuing to operate during the pandemic.
“It’s not as bad as we feared from the outset as most businesses are still operating, with the exception of restaurants that can only do takeaway,” he said.
“The most heavily impacted sector is still tourism and gym operators; but others are running close to normal so that’s why I don’t foresee (many) people losing their jobs.”
JCB’s website listed over 9,000 job seekers as of 9pm yesterday, but the minister said this was not a complete account of unemployment as not all job seekers may be registered with JCB. According to government’s latest labour survey, 16,234 were unemployed in 2019 corresponding to a rate 6.8%, down 1.9% from the year prior.
The revamping of JCB’s website and the expansion of the i-Ready scheme to diploma and technical and vocational education training (TVET) holders was announced on March 28 as part of the government’s wider economic stimulus measures to combat the outbreak.
211 companies apply for 25% salary subsidy; 139 companies apply for TAP and SCP deferments
211 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have applied for the government’s 25% salary subsidy for 2,203 employees as of March 5.
Another 139 companies have applied for deferment of TAP and SCP (social security) payments for six months covering 1,428 employees.
Both measures are part of the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s (MoFE) stimulus measures to help businesses mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and MoFE Second Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah shared the numbers during the daily COVID-19 press conference.
The subsidy covers salaries for three months and applies only to Bruneian staff employed by MSMEs – defined as businesses with less than 100 employees – with salaries less than $1,500. Businesses need to pay employees’ salaries in full before claiming the subsidy through TAP.
The social security deferments also apply to employees working for MSMEs earning less than $1,500 and must be repaid within a year of the final month of deferment.
Meanwhile the COVID-19 Relief Fund has raised $9.82 million since it was set up on March 21. The minister added that a portion of the fund may be used to pay for the $11 million extension at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.
Monday, May 4
Gadong night market now online with pasarpbg.com
Food from the Gadong night market (Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong – PPBG) can now be ordered online through www.pasarpbg.com to be picked up at the market or be delivered to customers’ homes.
The website enables PPBG’s cooked food vendors to continue doing business after the Brunei-Muara District Office ordered them to close on the first day of Ramadhan to prevent mass gatherings during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Local fintech startup Beep Digital Solutions proposed and received approval from the governing agencies to begin offering the service to the public today.
The website allows customers to browse and order a variety of food from multiple vendors which will be delivered within Brunei-Muara at a flat rate of $4.50 or be picked up at a designated drive through spot at the market.
Orders made before 1.30pm will be delivered or be available for pick up on the same day between 3pm to 5pm. Orders after 1.30pm will be delivered or be available for pick up the following day. Customers will receive updates on their orders through SMS.
Full story here.
Contact tracing app to enable access to eateries, mosques and gyms
The government’s contract tracing application is expected to review and grant approvals for applications by the public to access eateries, mosques and gyms, said the Minister of Health.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in the daily COVID-19 press conference earlier today that the application is currently awaiting approval, and is expected to be available for iOs and Android in English and Malay this week.
The software will generate a three-tiered colour code which approves of users’ movement; those given the green light can move freely, yellow signals that external permission must be sought – potentially from doctors – while red prohibits users from leaving their residence.
As Brunei enters its third week without new COVID-19 infections and over 94% of cases recovered, the government is planning how to lift the current restrictions in stages.
The Minister of Health previously said that the restrictions for people to enter and leave Brunei will the last measure to be lifted.
Mosques will be open for Friday prayers starting May 29, although physical distancing and controlling the number of congregants are expected to be implemented.
The app is expected to be implemented before the mosque opening, and be socialised immediately upon approval. “It will not just apply to (entering) mosques but to restaurants, gyms and other (places),” said the minister.
The tracing application will track people’s movements, providing data that allows the government to trace the source of new cases more efficiently, as well as identify individuals who may be at risk.
The application is part of the government’s wider readiness and control measures to combat COVID-19, which also include doubling the National Isolation Centre’s bed capacity to 296 – the main site of treatment – as well as setting up a new virology which increased their testing capacity tenfold to a thousand tests daily.
As part of measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the government has also ordered the closure of schools, gyms and sporting facilities, cinemas and several marketplaces, while eateries have been banned from allowing customers to dine in.
Saturday, May 2
Big BWN partners with Ta-Pow! to deliver sahur every day
Event management company Big BWN have partnered with food delivery application Ta-Pow! to offer daily deliveries for sahur (pre-dawn) meals from 25 local businesses.
The project called Sahur Everyday is an expansion from Big BWN’s popular pop-up sales event Sahur Saturday held annually during Ramadhan for the past five years, which had to be cancelled this year line with restrictions preventing mass gatherings during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ta-Pow! functions as a mobile-based food marketplace where customers can order food online to be delivered to them within Brunei-Muara with tiered rates between $2.50 to $5.
Founder of Ta-Pow! Ryan Yusof said 13 additional vendors have signed onto the platform alongside Sahur Everyday’s 25 vendors to offer meals for sungkai (breaking of fast).
Deliveries for sahur will be made from 9pm to 2am with the final order at 1am. Customers can also place their orders in advance for both sahur and sungkai.
Home-based vendors are charged a commission fee of 10% of each transaction while the full delivery fee is given to Ta-Pow!’s drivers as payment.
Full story here.
Friday, May 1
Relapse cases not infectious, safe to return to work after isolation
COVID-19 relapse cases that have been re-admitted to the National Isolation Centre (NIC) and have completed 14 days of isolation after being discharged can safely return to work without risk of being contagious, said the Minister of Health.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham said in the daily COVID-19 press conference that there is no evidence that relapse patients are infectious, as Brunei records no new cases for the 12th consecutive day.
22 COVID-19 patients have tested positive after initially testing negative following treatment and being discharged from NIC. 124 out of the 138 cases have recovered.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has since required relapse patients to take to swab test 11 days after being discharged for the second time along with serving an additional 14 days of self-isolation.
“For such patients in the country, MoH has a clear and comprehensive procedure for providing follow up care. Therefore, the public does not have to worry about the risk of infection from these former patients; they can return to their former lives once the self-isolation is completed,” said the minister.
“Therefore, employers do not need to take actions such as forcing them to take unpaid leave or isolating them from others. It is sufficient by ensuring that general precautions are taken at work by all employers and staff… Avoid discriminating against these former patients.”
Tuesday, April 28
Food trucks to operate drive-through at HB National Stadium
Food truck vendors will be allowed to operate drive-through services for customers at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium starting this Friday (May 1) as a replacement for the cancelled Gerai Ramadhan.
The Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that food trucks can apply to operate in the stadium’s vicinity.
Customers must place their orders first, before picking up their items through via drive through to prevent overcrowding. The minister added that the service may be extended to other locations across the country.
Businesses can apply to be part of the initiative by contacting:
Centralised drop off service for food vendors coming soon
The government is looking into hosting central drop off points for cooked food stall vendors where customers can pick up from or have a local courier deliver to them.
The Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in the daily COVID-19 press conference that customers will order by selecting food items online. The vendors will then prepare the food and drop off the order at the central point.
The latest initiative comes after the government has cancelled Gerai Ramadhan and subsequently banned the sale of cooked food by food stalls within tamus or marketplaces under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs as part of wider measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We understand that some are not familiar with using e-commerce platforms to sell, so we are in discussions with AITI to host a place where businesses can drop off their products – we will give a cut off time – and then this will be dispatched by local delivery services,” he said.
“They (vendors) will only need to attach an image through their phones so customers can see what they are buying and at what price. So vendors that do not want to do business online can use this service. InsyaAllah it will be notified soon once everything is ready.”
Roadside stalls not permitted; businesses can operate from home
Businesses are not allowed to set up stalls by the roadside but can continue to operate from home, said the Minister of Home Affairs.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said at the daily COVID-19 press conference that the Public Works Department has the authority to take action against roadside stalls in the interest of public safety.
Businesses can continue to operate from home if they are offering pick up or takeaway. Brunei still bans customers from dining in at eateries, including those based from home, as part of wider measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The minister also urged vendors to consider using local e-commerce platforms and delivery services to continue doing business.
Monday, April 27
Contact tracing app will help ease restrictions; border closure to be last measure lifted
The adoption of a contact tracing application that allows the government to monitor the movement and contacts made by potential carries COVID-19 will be key to helping lift restrictions, said the Minister of Health.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in the daily press conference that the government is currently planning the lifting of restrictions in stages as the country records no new cases for the eighth day with almost 90% of its 138 cases recovered.
While the curve of the current outbreak in Brunei has flattened, the situation must be fully under control and the government must be equipped to respond to another outbreak before restrictions can be lifted.
Using the tracing application “will be the new norm” for Brunei residents, he said, with the software generating a three-tiered colour code which approves of users’ levels of movement; those given the green light can move freely, yellow signals that external permission must be sought – potentially from doctors – while red prohibits users from leaving their existing residence.
“It (restrictions) cannot be done all in one go, but whatever it is, the border will remain the last (measure to be lifted),” said the minister. “For the border (restrictions), we may have to wait for the surrounding and global pandemic situation to end. But at the moment what is being discussed is how within the country – we have been flat for a while, there is one or two cases – so how can we lift (restrictions) in stages. InsyaAllah with the app it will help to lift the restrictions.”
The application currently in development and will be accessible in Malay and English. The data from the app will allow the government to trace the source of new cases more efficiently, as well as identify individuals who may be at risk.
“The app will be able to tell who was around with you, so it is easy to contract trace especially when you are out (for example) at the mosque or a restaurant,” he added.
Aside from restricting people from entering and leaving the country, the government has ordered the closure of schools, mosques, gyms and sporting facilities, cinemas and several marketplaces to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants have also been banned from allowing customers to dine in.
Tuesday, April 26
Ghanim’s Buy Local Produce campaign collects over 500kg
Ghanim International Corporation has collected over 500kg of 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables from local farmers and market vendors in Tutong and Belait to be supplied to supermarkets as part of their Buy Local Produce campaign.
Close to 60 vendors dropped off their produce at the Seria wet market and Tutong’s Serambangun over the past two weeks, which Ghanim purchased outright and then sold to supermarkets who either arrived later to pick up or had the items delivered to them.
Ghanim plans to facilitate the drop offs for local vendors every Tuesday in Seria (Belait) and every Thursday in Tutong as marketplaces (tamu) in both districts have been closed since last month as part of measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Ghanim CEO Dr Nur Rahman is encouraging farmers and vendors to contact their hotline 8890020 to notify what their supply capabilities are to allow their products to better marketed to supermarkets. Retail outlets and eateries are also invited to participate in the initiative.
“The three things we really need (from the farmers/vendors); product (type), the volume (amount) for each product and how much price they are expecting, so that our team can negotiate and discuss with the supermarkets,” said Dr Nur.
“Although we are trying to support farmers in districts where the markets are closed (Brunei-Muara markets are still open) this initiative is open to all local farmers and market vendors.”
Produce bought from vendors by Ghanim for less than $200 is paid in full, while larger supply is paid 50% upfront and the remaining 50% the following week.
Ghanim sells the majority of the produce to Hua Ho, Sim Kim Huat, Jaya Hypermart and the Millimewah Group. The products are also sold to eateries and at Ghanim’s kiosk at the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s building.
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced the Buy Local Produce campaign on April 22 to help vendors and farmers mitigate losses caused by the markets’ closure.
Full story here.
Tuesday, April 21
Brunei’s economy will not enter recession despite coronavirus crisis
Brunei’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to record growth in 2020 despite the global coronavirus crisis driving oil prices to record lows, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest report revised their projection for Brunei’s GDP from growing 4.7% to 1.3% this year due to the ongoing pandemic which is expected to cause the global economy to decline by 3%.
In the daily COVID-19 press conference, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said that IMF’s latest projections show that Brunei’s economy remains on track as major industries continue productivity during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
“Based on our internal assessment we are still able to achieve a respectable growth rate for this year,” said the minister.
“In Brunei, with the exception of a few businesses in tourism (and other) sectors, many businesses continue to operate. Many of us continue to work and that’s why we are lucky compared to other countries (in lockdown or shutdown). Based on that assumption that we can continue to do this, we foresee our economic growth to be quite strong.”
Brunei’s economy grew 3.9% last year, the highest rate in 13 years. According to IMF’s report, two major FDI projects – Hengy Industries’ US$3.45 billion oil refinery and petrochemical plant and the $1.8 billion Brunei Fertilizer Industries (BFI) plant – are expected to play a significant role in increasing Brunei’s GDP.
The minister added that oil production – which together with natural gas accounts for almost 90% of Brunei’s exports – will continue despite lower global demand, although selling prices will be negatively affected.
Yesterday, the US benchmark for crude oil, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) dropped to US$-37.63 a barrel for the first time in history, while Brent Crude – the more ubiquitous standard in the market – dropped to US$26.44 a barrel.
Reuters reported that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a Russia-led group of allies including Brunei agreed to collectively cut production by 9.7 million barrels per day from May to June to prop up oil prices amid lower demand. According to the report, Brunei will lower production by 23,000 barrels per day.
“This is the time when you really need to make sure that you always have a diversified portfolio of buyers; a lot of our buyers are in this Asia-Pacific region,” said the minister.
“Now China has started some factories, so their economy starts to move on. We also have buyers from other North Asian countries and also in the region. We are able to sell our cargo (of oil), the question is not so much whether you can sell but what price you will sell at.”
Ghanim to help farmers sell to supermarkets and eateries
State-owned Ghanim International Corporation (GIC) will be helping farmers and market vendors sell their produce to supermarkets and eateries to help prevent losses incurred from the closure of several marketplaces due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the Buy Local Produce campaign has already drawn 54 farmers and market vendors from Tutong and Seria with four supermarket chains signing on to purchase from them.
Farmers, market vendors, supermarkets, eateries and other retail establishments are encouraged to participate.
“The main objective of the campaign is to ensure that the income of farmers and vendors is maintained during the temporary closure (applying to the Belait and Tutong markets),” said the minister in a press conference earlier today.
The initiative will also ensure regular supply of local fruits and vegetables which will help stabilise prices and encourage farmers to continue planting.
In the long-term this will help Brunei reduce its reliance on food imports, although certain varieties that cannot be planted will continue to be imported.
“We need the farmers to continue growing. Don’t stop. Because when we first approached them… a lot of them actually stopped farming and a lot of them do not know how (where) to market their produce, and one or two would say that their vegetables would just go to rot,” he added.
“We will market for them and let them concentrate on the farming side so the more they produce, the more we can channel to the right places.”
GIC has already hosted exchanges for vendors in Tutong and Seria last week and will continue this week in Tutong. Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Finance and Economy are also facilitating the initiative.
For more information contact GIC at 8890020.
Monday, April 20
Postal services to collect Bruneians’ parcels delivered to Miri and Limbang
Brunei’s Postal Services Department have reached an agreement with their Malaysian counterparts to pick up Bruneians’ parcels delivered to Miri and Limbang.
Minister of Transport and Infocommunications YB Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohammad Yusof said in a press conference today that Brunei residents with unclaimed parcels will have to fill in a declaration form online for postal services to collect their items on their behalf.
Bruneian shoppers who order items online and have them sent to neighbouring Miri and Limbang typically engage “runners” from Brunei to pick up their items for a fee that ranges from $6 to $18. However Brunei has banned residents from leaving the country since March 16 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement comes after a viral image on April 18 claiming that parcels belonging to Bruneians were being left uncollected in Limbang. However the minister said the image itself has yet to be verified.
YB Dato Abd Mutalib said that Pos Malaysia shared that there were approximately 3,800 unclaimed parcels at neighbouring postal centres, but it has yet to be confirmed how many belong to Brunei residents.
He added that the parcel collection service is optional, but stressed this was the officially approved method during travel restrictions for Brunei customers to receive their items.
“The post (services) will become the runner on your behalf; it is a voluntary service to the people, but MTIC advises to use this service, it is proper and through an established arrangement,” he said.
The parcels will be processed at the Mail Processing Centre in Berakas before being delivered to the owner’s residences, with the exception of items with dutiable tax or requiring approval.
The minister added that Brunei residents should use their local address for online purchases to simplify the process in the future.
Bruneians who have their items sent to neighbouring Malaysian states to be picked up typically cite lower delivery costs and flexibility as certain sellers may not deliver to Brunei.
The fees for the parcel collection across the border have yet to be disclosed. Inquiries can be directed to the postal services’ customer hotline at 8711002, 2380481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government cancels $25 annual license fee for mobile lines
The $25 annual license fee for mobile line subscribers has been cancelled starting January 24 this year, announced the Minister of Transport and Infocommunications today.
Pre-paid and post-paid line subscribers who have paid the annual fee after January 24 will receive refunds through their respective telecommunications.
YB Dato Seri Setia Abd Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yusof said in a press conference that the move is part of wider efforts to steer the country towards becoming a ‘Smart Nation’ where telecommunications is affordable and accessible to society, enabling them to adopt new technologies and digital services.
Refunds will be issued when the telcos have completed the administrative procedures. The public can visit AITI’s webiste for more information or contact their service providers directly.
UNN partners with cable provider to restore internet connectivity
Brunei’s telecommunications network provider Unified National Network (UNN) has partnered with a submarine cable provider to restore internet connectivity that was disrupted by damage to several international underwater cables.
Minister of Transport and Infocommunications YB Dato Seri Setia Abd Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yusof said in a press conference today that repairs off the current network will be competed soon.
To minimize immediate disruptions, UNN has deployed traffic flow management and increased the capacity of functioning cable systems. The slowdown also comes amidst a surge in internet use from home with schools closing nationwide and more working remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Three underwater cable networks have been damaged: the SEA-ME-WE3 (SMW3) underwater cable system since February 23, the Asia-America Gateway (AAG) submarine cable system on April 2, and the Southeast Asia Japan Cable System (SJC) submarine cable system on April 17.
The slowdown has been compounded by problems with the Trans-Borneo link cable system – often used by UNN to diversify its capacity acquisition. The minister added that the compromised underwater cable systems have also affected connectivity in Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines and the Indian sub-continent.
Saturday, April 18
28 day period resets with new locally transmitted case
The 28 period for the COVID-19 outbreak to be considered under control has been reset with the first locally transmitted case since April 2.
The latest case is a 31-year-old woman who had previously tested negative after her husband tested positive. She was only found positive after being tested again because her close relative with COVID-19 relapsed 11 days after being discharged.
Although she is asymptomatic and is considered “mildly” positive according to the Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar, the case nevertheless resets the 28 day period, he said.
113 of the 137 cases have recovered. 16 recovered cases have tested positive – four who have been allowed home while the remaining undergo further examination.
The incubation period of COVID-19 is 14 days according to the World Health Organisation. If no cases are reported within the second incubation period, the outbreak is considered to be under control.
However the risk of the virus spreading after this period still remains if the country receives people from regions where the outbreak is still happening. The situation is also complicated by relapsing cases, a relatively new development that has yet to be conclusively explained.
The minister previously said the lifting of restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be done in stages after the outbreak is controlled and the government reviews the situation locally and overseas.
2,154 identified micro businesses to receive $300 for three months
2,154 identified micro businesses and self-employed Bruneians will receive $300 for three months ($900) to help manage losses sustained during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) has handed over $1,938,600 to three government ministries to be distributed to businesses under their purview, including those owned by non-Muslims.
The assistance was first announced on April 13 by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei.
MUIB said in a press statement today that the assistance comes from their General Administration Fund, which receives money for Syariah Court services, Halal certificate and permit fees, bank interest, rent from shops and land, sale and repossession of government land and from unclaimed assets and money given to Baitul Mal.
The breakdown for distribution:
- $1,719,000 for 1,910 market vendors under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA).
- $104,400 for 116 taxi drivers, Dart drivers and water taxi operators under the Ministry of Transporation and Infocommunications.
- $72,900 for 81 tour guides under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism.
- $42,300 for 47 micro businesses under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
The recipients were identified by a taskforce appointed by MUIB, which is chaired by MoHA’s permanent secretary and includes several other permanent secretaries, district officers, municipal board members and other related agencies.
MoH issues latest guidelines on mass gatheringsGuidelines-for-mass-gathering-and-etc-18.04.2020-2
Friday, April 17
BIBD’s online marketplace Community for Brunei goes live
BIBD’s virtual marketplace, Community for Brunei, went live at 7pm today as the country’s first integrated e-commerce platform with zero costs for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to do business on.
43 MSMEs in food and beverage, handcrafted products and services – part of BIBD’s CSR initiatives and The Collective’s network – have on boarded the platform, with vendor applications for their “online Gerai Ramadhan” open from April 20 to 23.
The Community for Ramadhan project is targeting 250 F&B vendors said BIBD’s Chief Marketing Officer Hjh Nurul Akmar Hj Mohd Jaafar in a press conference today.
All platform fees will be waived for the first three months, allowing vendors to keep 100% of their sales. Hjh Nurul said rates after three months would be discussed with vendors.
Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Chairman of BIBD YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced in a press conference yesterday that the platform will be a virtual replacement for the Gerai Ramadhan which has been canceled this year, and is part of wider relief measures to help mitigate the downturn faced by businesses in the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Vendors will need to be officially registered as a business through the government’s Registry of Companies and Business Names, which is currently waiving the $30 registration fee for the first 300 businesses until April 30.
Meanwhile the website’s donation platform Community for Covid is already live and provides real-time updates to the public on the needs of healthcare frontliners and facilities to avoid waste and better coordinate donations that are sourced from the platform’s vendors.
Full story here.
Thursday, April 16
BIBD launching online marketplace for MSMEs tomorrow
BIBD will be launching an online marketplace tomorrow targeted at helping micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to continue doing business virtually during the COVID-19 outbreak, announced the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
www.communityforbrunei.com is being developed by local startups including The Collective, Think Axis and Alicia Newn and will be focusing on two projects: Community for Covid and Community for Ramadhan.
Community for Covid will provide real-time updates to the public on the needs of healthcare frontliners to avoid wastage and better coordinate donations – which will be sourced from MSMEs.
Community for Ramadhan will act as an online Gerai Ramadhan – which has been physically cancelled nationwide – and will begin onboarding food and beverage MSMEs starting April 20.
Sellers will need to have registered officially as a business through the Registry of Companies and Business Names and select and fill in details required under Business Activity 56: Food & Beverages Services Activities. The first 300 newly registered businesses by April 30 will have the $30 registration fee waived.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the platform – which also involves the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) – is a collaborative effort between the government and private sector to help MSMEs, especially those in the F&B industry, who have had to cope with a dining in ban and the closure of several marketplaces.
BIBD will provide more updates on the platform tomorrow at a virtual press conference at 2.30pm. Business registration inquiries can be directed to ROCBN at 2380505/2383444 or email@example.com.
Foreigners arriving in Brunei to pay $1,000 for COVID-19 testing
All foreigners arriving in Brunei starting April 16 will have to pay $1,000 to be tested for COVID-19 in addition to bearing the costs of the 14-day mandatory isolation at designated monitoring centers.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press conference today that the fee covers the cost of laboratory testing for the virus.
Medical treatment for foreigners confirmed with COVID-19 will continue to be borne by the Brunei government.
“Healthcare is not free – it’s expensive. What we want to ensure is those who come here must, (or) really need to come. Once it’s (a case) is positive, we will have to look after them,” said the minister in response to a reporter’s question on the rationale behind the $1,000 fee.
“It will be free (treatment for COVID-19 for all in Brunei). So $1,000 is nothing (in comparison to treatment costs) for you to come here.”
Brunei introduced a ban on foreigners entering the country on March 24, but allowed exemptions for essential services, which have to be applied and approved by the Department of Immigration and National Registration.
The minister also clarified that the $1,000 testing fee does not apply to transport companies’ personnel who arrive in Brunei to deliver goods and leave on the same day.
The cost of mandatory isolation at designated centres – which includes several hotels – is $30 to $50 a night for foreigners, inclusive of food.
Outbreak increases demand for broadband; slow internet due to faulty submarine cables
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a surge in fixed-line broadband applications in Brunei, with 2,400 new applications in the first two weeks of April.
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in a press conference that 700 applications have already been installed, with 60 new installations completed every day.
The nationwide closure of schools, flexible working arrangements and social distancing has seen increased usage of the internet in homes.
However the slower than usual internet speeds are mainly due to faulty submarine cables outside Brunei, according to the minister.
Three of the five cables that provide connectivity to Brunei are down and are in the process of being repaired.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin added that 200 to 300 of Brunei’s 800 sites are now 4G+, while 3G base stations are also being upgraded by Brunei’s network infrastructure provider Unified National Networks.
Internet prices have also been reduced accordingly for students, with 10GB dropping from $40 to $16, said the minister.
Customers facing difficulty receiving refunds to report to DCCA
Customers facing difficulties in receiving refunds for goods or services that cannot be delivered because of the COVID-19 outbreak can lodge their complaints to The Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs (DCCA).
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in a press conference said that DCCA, which is under the Department of Economic Planning & Statistics, are looking into consumer complaints.
The minister said that several companies have been flexible in giving refunds for services affected by the outbreak, including Royal Brunei, in response to a reporter’s question on businesses not receiving refunds for registering for now-cancelled expos and customers who have placed orders for marriage-related services that now have to be postponed.
The public can direct their complaints to DCCA’s hotline at 8333123, mobile app PenggunaBijak or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weelago gaining traction as trusted e-commerce platform for Brunei distributors
Brunei online marketplace Weelago is gaining traction as a trusted e-commerce platform for Brunei distributors and manufacturers for providing integrated end-to-end solutions from online payment to marketing.
Weelago has recently onboarded over 20 businesses, including Brunei’s only pharmaceutical producer Simpor Pharma – whom they are the exclusive online retailer for – as well as established distributors Guan Hock Lee and Chop Kian Chuang and electronics retailer CF King.
With the public advised to limit their travel during the COVID-19 outbreak, Weelago has seen an increase in popularity – especially for personal hygiene items – selling over 1,000 bottles of hand sanitisers in less than two days. The website currently lists over 2,000 items for sale covering furniture, groceries, packaged food, fashion and health and beauty.
General Manager of Weelago Chris Wong said each seller is given their own e-Shop builder which helps automate inventory management, transactions and generates reports which enables them to better manage their accounts.
Weelago has multiple payment gateways; accepting Visa, MasterCard, Alipay and BruPay, while customers can opt for deliveries from either Go Rush, PosLaju and FedEx or self pick up at their Menglait office.
Full story here.
Tuesday, April 14
Brunei’s first online marketplace for farmers launched
Brunei agritech startup Agrome IQ has launched Brunei’s first online marketplace for local farmers to sell directly customers.
Agromemarket.com currently has 20 farmers selling 13 different types of vegetables and fruits and is planning to on board 100 farmers in two months, and 1,500 farmers in 12 months based on a national pool of farmers identified by the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism to be certified for Brunei’s Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).
Agrome IQ founder Dr. Vanessa Teo said an online marketplace has always been in the company’s plans, but its development and launch has been accelerated because of the challenges smallholder farmers currently face in marketing their produce amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Agrome IQ – the first company to be endorsed by MPRT to conduct GAP training and consulting – will also be doing physical checks on the produce to ensure customers receive quality items. They will also be handling logistics for the farmers, picking up and packing orders and making deliveries nationwide.
Delivery charges are $2 for BSB, $3 for Muara, $4 for Tutong and $5 for Temburong and Belait, with a delivery time of three to four working days. There is no minimum order, and orders above $45 are delivered free.
Farmers meanwhile are charged a commission fee between 8% to 10%. Registration fees have been waived during the COVID-19 outbreak. Farmers interested in joining the platform can register here.
Full story here.
Monday, April 13
HM asks landlords to consider lowering rent; MUIB to help self-employed
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has asked landlords to consider lowering rent while assuring that the self-employed will be further helped by the Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Addressing the ongoing pandemic in a broadcast earlier this evening on RTB, His Majesty acknowledged the financial impact the outbreak has had on local businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and those who are self-employed.
He also announced that all frontline healthcare staff, volunteers and security guards at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital and the National Isolation Centre would receive a $400 monthly allowance until the outbreak is controlled.
“Meanwhile, those who will also receive help are market vendors, taxi drivers and water taxi drivers, whose income has been negatively affected by COVID-19. The assistance will be managed by MUIB,” said the monarch.
“As a sign of charity or compassion in these times, it would be good for those who own rental premises such as stores to consider lessening the burden of their tenants who have seen their business be negatively impacted by waiving or reducing rental for such a time until this outbreak comes to an end.”
Businesses have reported mixed results in negotiating with their landlords on rent. Eateries, who are only allowed to cater to takeaways, tourism businesses and fitness facilities – who have been ordered to close outright – are amongst those struggling to make rent.
Businesses whose services or products are deemed not essential have also suffered, as customers tighten wallets during the outbreak.
The Ministry of Finance and Economy has lead the development of economic stimulus packages collectively worth $450 million, which includes banks offering loan deferments starting this month, which businesses are hoping will translate to flexibility over rent.
Prior to the loan deferment announcement, several businesses were vocal on social media that their landlords are unable to delay or reduce their rent claiming they have loan repayments of their own.
Sunday, April 12
Gadong night market to continue during Ramadhan with amended hours
The Gadong night market (Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong – PPBG) will continue to operate during Ramadhan but with amended hours which will be announced soon, said the Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong in a press conference earlier today.
PPBG’s vendors typically open from 4pm to 10pm daily. The Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled this year’s Gerai Ramadhan nationwide to prevent crowds gathering during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
MoHA refutes message claiming Brunei borders are open
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has refuted a motorcyclist’s viral video claiming that there are no entry restrictions at Brunei’s border control posts during the COVID-19 outbreak.
MoHA Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the video had been shot on March 16, before the Brunei government imposed an inbound ban on all foreigners entering on March 24.
Brunei has also banned outbound travel for all its residents starting March 16.
The motorist in the viral video claimed to be part of a convoy called Kembara Borneo Miri/Limbang 40 and said there was no issue in entering Brunei through the Sg Tujoh checkpoint. The video was also accompanied by unverified messages claiming authorities were being lax and risking the spread of COVID-19 into Brunei.
The minister also clarified that only delivery vehicles carrying commercial goods are allowed into Brunei, and must seek approval from the Department of Immigration and National Registration beforehand.
Foreigners making these deliveries receive a chop on their passport stating they must return within the same day. The minister added that they cannot loiter or roam unnecessarily while in the country.
Saturday, April 11
28 day countdown not reset with yesterday’s COVID-19 case
The 28 day period of no new cases before the COVID-19 outbreak is considered under control will not be reset by yesterday’s case as it was not locally transmitted, said the Minister of Health.
Yesterday’s case 136 of a 28-year-old Bruneian flying back from Indonesia, and had spent a day in Kuala Lumpur, is considered an imported case.
Therefore Brunei has reached seven days without a locally transmitted case; from April 5 to 9 no cases were recorded, before case 136 was recorded on April 10, and no cases were recorded on today (April 11). 104 cases have recovered.
“We had no cases for five days, but yesterday there was (a case), but yesterday’s case considered imported and (was) straight away isolated (in a facility),” said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.
“So the count (of) 28 days still continues – no reset – because for the reset (to happen) there must be spread, even if limited (local) spread. For example if case 136 infects his wife at home, then we have to reset.”
The minister previously said that the outbreak must be under control (28 day period) before any of the current restrictions can be lifted. However this is subject to a national review which takes into account global developments, as Brunei still remains at risk if it imports cases from countries where the outbreak is still happening.
MoH issues new workplace guidelines
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued updated guidelines for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 epidemic, addressing the potential risks to operations and employees in the workplace, while also suggesting alternative working arrangements.
Wednesday, April 7
DARe issues second survey to measure impact of COVID-19 on businesses
Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) has issued a second survey to the business community to measure the impact of COVID-19 and the government’s stimulus measures on their operations.
Since the first survey issued on March 18, four major announcements of economic stimulus measures have been announced by the Ministry of Finance and Economy which is estimated to be worth $450 million.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah has said more up to date data is now needed for national agencies to further understand the state of businesses as the country approaches a month since it recorded its first coronavirus case.
Click here to fill in the survey by April 13 (Monday) at 4pm.
230 new job opportunities created
Since March 29’s announcement of i-Ready apprenticeship being extended to Level 5 Diploma and Level 2 to 4 Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) holders, a total of 230 jobs have been created, said the Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah.
Out of the 230, 20 have already secured permanent, full-time employment. The new i-Ready positions – created based on the submitted demand by private companies – are approximately 60 for diploma holders and 40 for TVET holders.
The extension of i-Ready apprenticeships for diploma and TVET holders primarily applies to the private sector.
The minister previously said in an interview that the extension was made based on private sector demand for positions that could be filled by Bruneian employees with higher education qualifications, but not be limited to graduates with degrees – which the i-Ready programme catered exclusively to when it was introduced in 2017.
The minister encouraged companies to continue submitting their manpower demands and interest for i-Ready to Job Centre Brunei. He added that though the total number of jobseekers is being tracked, there is no official data at present on the number of employees laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
66 companies apply for 25% salary subsidy
Sixty-six micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have applied for 380 Bruneian staff in total to receive the 25% salary subsidy offered by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah clarified in a press conference that the subsidy could not be claimed for employees that were being put on unpaid leave or furloughed.
“If we find out that the subsidy has been abused, we will take action against them,” said the minister in response to a question on companies who could potentially be claiming the subsidy for staff but continue to put the same staff on unpaid leave.
According to Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) – which is processing the subsidy – MSMEs are required to make full payment for employees’ salary first before the subsidy can be claimed through filling in a form from itswebsite.
The subsidy is for Bruneian employees earning less than $1,500 and can be claimed for up to three months.
200,000 masks donated; relief fund reaches $4.02 million
Donations from Foreign Direct Investment based companies continue to pour in with 100,000 face masks donated by Amann Shipping Group Sdn Bhd and Guangxi Ruian Logistics (Group) Co Limited (Ruian) each. Meanwhile the national COVID-19 relief fund reached $4,029,001.34 as of 5pm.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah thanked the public and companies for continuing to come forward to contribute, adding that Guangxi Ruian donated despite not having set up operations in Brunei yet.
50% subsidy on glutinous rice
The Treasury Department will be offering a 50% discount on glutinous rice beginning April 8 for a month for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and the self-employed as part of wider measures to help them cope with the cancellation of Gerai Ramadhan and wedding events due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The discount brings down the price of a 10kg bag from $7.80 to $3.80 and will be available from the State Supply and Store Complex. Glutinous rice is a staple ingredient used in traditional desserts and is an accompaniment for main dishes.
The announcement also comes in anticipation of Ramadhan and the Hari Raya festivities that follow, which is typically a busy season for MSMEs selling traditional cakes.
Businesses can contact the Treasury Department at 2383666 ext 7788 or email@example.com for more information or to make reservations to buy glutinous rice from the State Supply and Store Complex.
Monday, April 6
Gerai Ramadhan cancelled
The highly-visited Gerai Ramadhan markets across the country will be cancelled this year to prevent mass gatherings during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Minister of Home Affairs, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press conference that the cancellation affects all stalls under their jurisdiction as well as those by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
When asked by the media about individual or groups of stalls by the roadside, the minister said they too were advised not to set up during Ramadhan to prevent the gathering of crowds.
To mitigate the impact of the cancellation, he encouraged local vendors to digitise their businesses by selling through endorsed e-Commerce platforms and delivery services listed on the newly launched eKadaiBrunei.
For more information on eKadaiBrunei, contact AITI at +673 232 3232 or eKadaiBrunei@aiti.gov.bn and the DARe Helpdesk at +673 836 3442/+673 238 4830 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Random COVID-19 testing for foreign workers arriving before travel ban
Foreign workers arriving in Brunei two weeks before the travel ban on March 21, 2020 will be tested at random for COVID-19.
The move by the Ministry of Health (MoH) with the help of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) comes after the country recorded no new COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day and looks to take more precautionary measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Foreign workers were banned from entry on March 21, with a blanket ban on all inbound foreigners three days later. 25 out of the 135 recorded COVID-19 cases in Brunei were foreigners, including expatriates.
The MoH Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press conference that selected employers would be engaged to bring in their workers to undertake the test for free.
MoHA Minister, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong also reminded employers to ensure acceptable living conditions for their foreign workers and to report staff with COVID-19 symptoms.
The Labour Department has issued warnings to 18 employers who failed to provide acceptable living conditions for foreign workers. A subsequent violation would see the company’s Foreign Worker’s License (LPA) revoked.
The Employment Order also states that employers must ensure that employees who fall sick receive medical attention at hospitals or clinics. All COVID-19 treatment and testing in Brunei is currently borne by the government.
Employers found guilty of failing to help sick employees seek medical attention can be fined up to $3,000, jailed for less than a year or both.
MoHA refutes online claims on undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in Brunei
The Minister of Home Affairs refuted claims mentioned by a Bangladesh-based online publication that stipulated that Brunei had 25,000 Bangladeshi migrants – the majority undocumented – including seven who had contracted coronavirus.
Brunei’s official records show two, legally employed Bangladeshi nationals with COVID-19 who have been discharged from the National Isolation Centre following successful treatment.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press conference that there are 12,841 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Brunei according to last year’s Labour Census, 73% of whom work construction.
There have been no undocumented Bangladeshi migrants found in Brunei in the past 15 months. Of the 13 undocumented migrants in Brunei, 12 are from Malaysia and one is Indonesian.
However 68 of the 110 foreign workers found violating their terms of employment across the same period were from Bangladesh. Their violations include working for someone outside their official employer and doing business and services outside their contract.
Through KadaiRuncit.com, SCOT’s single mothers preparing 2,600 meals for healthcare frontliners
Over 2,600 meals for healthcare frontliners have been ordered by the public through online grocery store KadaiRuncit and prepared by single mothers under Society for Community Outreach and Training’s (SCOT) Social Kitchen programme.
Each meal and refreshment is priced at $5 and is prepared in the afternoon daily and delivered in time for dinner to frontliners working during the COVID-19 outbreak at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong and RIPAS Hospital.
Orders can be placed for packages from five to 50 packs, with a flat delivery fee of $5.50 for each order.
Over $13,000 in sales have been generated since the programme started on March 18, with the two participating single mothers being paid a daily wage and an additional share of the profits.
KadaiRuncit’s founder Aizuddin Fakhri said the raw materials for the meals would be supplied by them, in addition to SCOT accessing their pool of dispatchers for deliveries.
“It’s a great project for everyone; we are able to do our part to help the frontliners, while single mothers and local drivers can make an income by preparing and supplying the meals,” said Aizuddin.
Full story here.
Local startups and NGO partner to make 10,000 safety visors
Environmental NGO Green Brunei, garment manufacturing startup Cerita Fabrikku and Fera Health & Nursing Care have partnered together to produce 10,000 safety visors for healthcare professionals working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a post by The Scoop, legislative council members, YB Khairunnisa Ash’ari and YB Nik Hafimi Abdul Haadii, who are also volunteering on the project, said they are looking to complete production in five days.
Sunday, April 5
No government mandate to work from home
There is no government directive for workers in both the private sector and government to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, although flexibility is encouraged for vulnerable groups, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, who is also a minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said employers at present were given the discretion to review working arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
“I think we have seen for the circular, the directive from Ministry of Health, for people who are vulnerable or people who are above certain age, 70 and above, preferably work from home,” he said at a press conference.
“So for those who are pregnant, vulnerable… I think we have to look at the operation case-by-case basis. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution.”
He added that larger organisations can afford to split their workforce into teams who take turns between coming into the office and working from home. Others can segregate between essential staff who are required to be physically present for operations to continue, from those who can largely do work online.
However not all organisations have the flexibility or resources to execute work from home strategies, and therefore reduced or alternative working hours, especially for vulnerable, is advised, while maintaining hygiene and social distancing at the workplace.
Price ceiling for face masks in Brunei risks supply shortage
Setting a price cap for face masks in Brunei could cause a shortage of imports, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said that Brunei is reliant on imports for face masks. If a price ceiling is set too low, while global prices for masks continue to rise, importers will be deterred from supplying if they cannot mantain profitability.
Responding to a media question on the local applicability of the Malaysian government’s decision to cap each face mask at RM 1.50, the minister said a potential implication would be that importers, who cannot secure below that price from overseas manufacturers, would cease importing masks.
“If prices are going up, if you restrict the prices that people can sell in a country then you end up with no face mask in the country. Then that is also the potential negative implication to us. So I think we need to monitor this closely but the government is also trying to source it as much as possible especially for the frontliners,” he said at a press conference.
He added that local companies were also looking to begin the production of masks.
The Minister of Health has repeatedly stated that wearing masks is optional for the general population, and should be reserved for healthcare professionals and those with COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.
Current prices for three-ply face masks in Brunei range from 56 cents to $1.50 each according to The Department of Economic Planning and Statistics’ latest data, which is updated regularly on their website.
Business matching for tamu vendors
The government is currently looking into helping local produce at markets be supplied to larger supermarkets during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move comes after reports by tamu or stall vendors facing declining sales during the outbreak, with selected marketplaces closed and this year’s Gerai Ramadhan cancelled.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), which oversees the majority of the main marketplaces in Brunei, has cancelled all rental payments under their jurisdiction starting from March for six months. Rental at government markets are already heavily subsidized, with vendors paying below $60 a month.
The Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said their research with MoHA has estimated that there are currently a thousand vendors selling vegetables and fruit.
These vendors have been approached by the government to see what the main products are being sold and their respective pricing.
“We try to help them by becoming an aggregator, so we provide a platform. Their products, the various types of vegetables, we (the government) collect them together and get them to supply with a price and negotiate with the supermarkets (and other retailers). So we help them sell to these places,” he said in a press conference.
“At this time we all worry about food security. So we should continue encouraging them to farm and sell… because if we help with just finance (handouts) they could stop selling (and subsequently farmers will stop producing).”
No new cases, restrictions remain for public safety
Brunei has recorded no new COVID-19 cases for the first time today since March 9 as the outbreak’s curve continues to flatten in the country.
The Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said the existing restrictions – including the inbound travel ban, closure of certain recreational facilities and banning of dining in at eateries – must be maintained.
“We have to look at our data, 50 percent (of COVID-19 cases) are asymptomatic (without symptoms). This is worrying. That’s why we haven’t said restaurants, sports centres can re-open because there is this window (where the virus could have spread further),” he said at a press conference.
“We must keep in mind that the risk of transmission is still present even though it is under control. If we are complacent, the situation can change in the blink of an eye and unwanted events such as lockdown may occur.”
He added that a potential risk for COVID-19 cases remains amongst inidividuals arriving to Brunei within the 11 day period between the first recorded case (March 9) and the inbound ban on foreign workers on March 21.
Friday, April 3
MoH clarifies lifting of COVID-19 restrictions
The lifting of restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be done in stages after the government has assessed control measures and the spread of the virus in the country and overseas.
From a medical standpoint, the Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said that the coronavirus outbreak is considered to be over locally if no new cases are recorded after 28 days. However, the risk of the virus spreading in Brunei remains if the country receives individuals from countries where the outbreak is still happening
He said the medical explanation behind the 28 day period was based on the incubation period of the COVID-19 virus being up to 14 days, which is based on World Health Organization’s findings.
“An outbreak will only be declared over when there are no more cases reported within the second incubation period. For COVID-19, it is 28 days. However, the virus may not be completely eradicated, especially taking into consideration global outbreaks are still not under control,” he said in a press conference.
“Therefore, it is very important for us to come together to control the spread of the COVID-19 infection in the country so that at least some of the current restrictions can be reduced slowly and in stages.”
The Ministry of Health (MoH) had previously retracted the minister’s statement on April 2 that the government would consider COVID-19 restrictions 28 days after Brunei records no new infections.
The restrictions to curb the COVID-19 outbreak have been successful in flattening the rate of secondary transmissions within the country, according to MoH’s data.
Live tracking, tiered delivery rates see GoMamam reach 200 daily orders
Mobile food delivery application GoMamam has seen its daily orders surge to 200 during the COVID-19 outbreak, earning popularity amongst users for its live tracking and tiered delivery rates.
GoMamam is currently the only mobile application in Brunei for food delivery that enables its users to track the movement of their orders by syncing the GPS location of dispatchers (drivers) using Google Maps technology.
The founders of GoMamam have also used the same technology to offer tiered rates based on the distance of delivery between eateries and the drop-off addresses: $3 within seven km, $4 for seven to 11km and $5 for more than 11km.
The rates are amongst the cheapest in Brunei, leading to almost 11,000 application downloads since their launch in February.
With Brunei banning dining in and social distancing being encouraged, GoMamam is looking to position itself to be the country’s leading food delivery service during and after the COVID-19 outbreak is controlled.
Full story here.
Thursday, April 2
Contractors contribute over 500k in building new virology lab
A total of $569,348 in construction costs were sponsored by local contractors to build the extension of the Molecular Diagnostic Unit for Respiratory Viruses for the new National Virology Reference Laboratory located in Jalan Sumbiling.
The Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar thanked the project’s main contractor LSL Sdn Bhd and partners Trane Aire Sdn Bhd, Daya Engineering Sdn Bhd, Amberhigh Sdn Bhd, Beaver Engineering Sdn Bhd, Kha Arkitek, Swee Sdn Bhd, Petar Perunding Sdn Bhd, Supinda Electronic & Trading Company, Razaco Transport Services and Gaya Reka Sdn Bhd.
The new virology lab, completed in two weeks, is expected to increase the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity tenfold, reaching a thousand tests daily. Chinese genome sequencing company Beijing Genomic Institution also consulted on the project.
Wednesday, April 1
eKadaiBrunei: Brunei’s first online e-commerce directory launched
The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) have launched Brunei’s first local online e-commerce directory, eKadaiBrunei, today to help businesses and the public find trusted providers.
There are currently 12 e-commerce platforms, 12 logistics companies and six delivery services that are listed, who cumulatively encompass the e-Commerce value chain from importing to secure online payment, website listing and local delivery.
eKadaiBrunei’s launch takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has seen the government banning dining in at eateries and encouraging social distancing to curtail the spread of the illness.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew announced on March 28 that the national e-commerce platform was in the works, and highlighted the sector’s role in providing a safe and convenient way for local businesses to continue connecting with customers.
Full story here.
Go Rush delivers medical prescriptions to your doorstep
Local courier delivery service Go Rush has been appointed by the Ministry of Health to offer delivery of medical prescriptions to your doorstep.
The Go Rush Pharmacy Delivery service was launched in February 2019, but is being increasingly encouraged as a safe and convenient option for individuals due to ongoing COVID-19 outbreak affecting the country.
The standard delivery rates are $3 within Brunei-Muara and $7 for inter-district which carries a delivery time of two to three days. Express, same-day delivery is available within Brunei-Muara for $5.
Each medicine delivery is packed by the Pharmacy Department in biodegradable, tamper-proof sealed bags and delivered by Go Rush’s dispatchers who are using hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves during the pick-up and delivery process.
All medicines prescribed by government hospitals and healthcare centres can be delivered except for controlled drugs and psychotropics. The medicines will be packed and dispatched centrally from the pharmacy at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital.
Full story here.
1,300 eateries, salons and spas checked for health and safety
More than 1,000 eateries and 300 salons and spas have been checked for health and safety standards by the Law Enforcement Division of the BSB Municipal Department.
The eateries premises and equipment were checked for cleanliness and staff were briefed on health regulations that require any staff showing symptoms of flu, cough or fever to seek medical attention.
The saloons and spas were similarly briefed and reminded of the standards under the Health and Beauty Establishment Order 2016.
Both types of establishments are required to have hand sanitisers for customers. For health and beauty centres, customers must be checked for temperature before receiving treatment, while the establishment’s employees must wash their hands and use face masks and gloves while servicing customers.
At present, eateries are banned from offering dine in, while health and beauty establishments, including barbershops, salons and massage parlours, can still operate.
Royal Brunei flights reduce by 95%, non-essential staff put on compulsory leave
Royal Brunei (RB) has instructed its staff to take compulsory paid leave for two months as flights reduce by 95% and the airline potentially faces losing hundreds of millions in revenue amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Second Minister of Finance and Economy, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah and Chairman of RB said in a press conference that none of the national carrier’s 1,750 employees has been laid off because of the outbreak, despite Brunei banning all inbound and outbound passenger travel until further notice.
In an internal circular, RB said employees would have to take paid leave from April 1 to May 31, with only a small group of essential staff retained to operate the remaining routes to Singapore, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Manila which are carrying essential consignments including food and medical supplies.
He added that staff without sufficient paid leave to be utilised during this two month period will have the option of carrying forward their leave from the next financial year instead of taking unpaid leave.
“This is a time when we need to look at each other and say how can we work together. If they help the company (which is their company) there’s nothing wrong with helping the company. When the company helps them during the difficult times and this is the time maybe to show how you appreciate what the company has done for you,” he said.
“By helping the company, you are helping the government too because we are helping Royal Brunei all along. So hopefully our staff can understand this. This is not a normal time that everything you need to be calculative about (berkira-kira).”
Landlords encouraged to give flexibility to tenants
Landlords are encouraged to give flexibility to tenants who are dealing with a loss in revenue due to the COVID-19 outbreak, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah acknowledged in a press conference that the government has no “legal right” to ask landlords to reduce rent, but advised that landlords be flexible in meeting rental payments if they want to keep long-term tenancy.
The government announced previously that all banks in Brunei will offer loan deferments starting April 1, which businesses are hoping will translate to flexibility over rent.
“If you (landlords) have the flexibility to reduce (rent) but insist on not reducing then, then they have to think that if they insist on maintaining the same rent or if the business renting the space cannot survive on that rental decide to move out or collapse then the landlord will have no tenants,” said the minister in response to a question whether the government can step in to offer flexibility over rent in privately owned premises.
“And in the current environment, (it is) probably very difficult to find another tenant immediately, so they need to consider; have to give and take… The government has introduced a lot of measures to help the businesses so for those landlords who are in the positions to assist their own tenants, hopefully, the tenants will appreciate the gesture and when times become better then they appreciate and they continue to stay on in that in that premise.”
Businesses have reported mixed results in negotiating with their landlords on rent, as they seek deferments, reductions or waivers. Eateries, who are only allowed to cater to takeaways, tourism businesses and fitness facilities – who have been ordered to close outright – are amongst those struggling to make rent.
Businesses whose services or products are deemed not essential have also suffered, as customers tighten wallets during the outbreak.
Prior to the loan deferment announcement, several businesses have been vocal on social media that their landlords are unable to delay or reduce their rent claiming they have loan repayments of their own.
Loan deferments apply to civil servants affected by COVID-19 outbreak
Civil servants who have been financially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak can seek loan deferments subject to the lending institution’s review, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah was responding to a question from the media about the loan deferment announcement on March 30 which stated that all working individuals can seek to have their loan repayments deferred or restructured.
“So for example, if a civil servant has a bought a house or building to rent out, so because of COVID-19, the business moves out; he cannot find (a tenant to replace), he cannot repay the principal – in that case, yes he can go to the bank and say, okay his salary probably is not enough to cover the repayment, then he will be able to take that to the bank,” he said in a press conference.
“But if he is buying a house and staying in the house and the COVID-19 (outbreak) came, his salary is not affected, then this measure is not for him… We have to be careful (on giving deferments to everyone) – that will weaken the bank’s credibility.”
New employees to qualify for paid sick leave after one month
The Ministry of Home Affairs has temporarily reduced the tenure required for an employee to qualify for paid sick leave from six months to one month.
The new measure is effective from March 9, 2020 until further notice and was made to safeguard the welfare of new employees who may be required to undergo self-isolation, quarantine or medical treatment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The amendment is based on the regulations within the Employment Order 2009, which requires private sector employees to have worked for six months before being entitled to paid sick leave.
Under the order, employees are entitled to 14 days of paid outpatient sick leave and 60 days hospitalization leave annually.
The Minister of Home Affairs, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press conference that the reduction was made after discussions with stakeholders, including the Manpower Planning and Employment Council and several private companies affected by the outbreak.
Meanwhile the Second Minister of Finance and Economy, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said that employers should be flexible in meeting the needs of employees affected by the outbreak.
These include providing advance leave for those who are not eligible for paid sick leave, offering flexible working hours and to nominate employees with downtime for reskilling courses sponsored by the government.
Policy responses successful in slowing down transmission
The infection curve of COVID-19 in Brunei is flattening according to the latest data generated from the Health Info Brunei web application.
With two new cases and seven recoveries reported today, overall transmission rates have begun to decrease while recoveries are steadily increasing, with the total number of active cases dropping to 78.
The Minister of Health said in a press conference today that Brunei’s policy directives instituted over March have successfully slowed down secondary transmissions.
“From the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 9, it took us five days to bring the transmission under control through various measures from a whole-of-nation approach such as the closure of schools, prohibition on mass gatherings, a travel ban extended to the EU, an outbound travel ban for Brunei residents, the temporary closure of places of worship, a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation for inbound travellers, and the barring of foreigners to contain the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Tuesday, March 31
Gym fined $5,500 for opening during outbreak
The founder of one of Brunei’s most established bodybuilding gyms was fined $5,500 by the Magistrate’s Court after pleading guilty to allowing people to use his gym in Batu Besurat during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Investigations revealed that 55-year-old Harun Hj Ahmad opened his gym from 6am to 10.30pm on March 26, and was also found with a daily log book recording user entries between March 19 to 26.
The government issued a directive on March 19 that gyms and fitness centres in Brunei have to close until further notice to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Harun admitted to knowing about the directive but continued to open his facility to customers. He will face a month in prison if he fails to pay the fine.
Failing to adhere to directives by the Ministry of Health (MoH) under the Infectious Diseases Act is an offence with a penalty up to $10,000 and six months jail time.
The public can report any concerns on activities contravening MoH’s directives to the Health Advice Line at 148 or the police hotline at 993.
Monday, March 30
Brunei defers business, personal and property loans as total stimulus rises to $450 million
The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) is deferring all business, personal and property loans in a new stimulus package that raises the total economic relief provided by the government amid the COVID-19 outbreak to $450 million.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced the new deferments endorsed by the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Brunei Association of Banks in a press conference this afternoon in a press conference.
All deferments must be applied for by businesses or individuals directly to – and be approved by – their lending institution or bank between April 1 to December 30, 2020.
The deferments will be effective from the lender’s date of approval until March 31, 2021. All deferments are for the principal amount borrowed, which means the interest or profit rate (for Islamic banks) still have to be paid.
There are four deferments or eligible delays:
1. Deferment on repayment for loans or financing for all business sectors.
2. Restructuring and deferment of repayments for personal loans and hire purchase facilities including car loans for up to ten years for businesses and working individuals, including the self-employed.
3. Delaying repayment of property/real estate loans for businesses and working individuals, including the self-employed.
4. Restructuring outstanding credit card debt into loans not longer than three years for private sector employees and the self-employed. However credit card limit will not be raised within these three years.
YB Dato Amin Liew said the deferments and the waiving of bank fees would cost the financial sector approximately $250 million. When factoring previous COVID-19 related economic relief measures – including deferred TAP/SCP payments, 25% salary contribution for MSME’s Bruneian employees and sponsored training programmes for graduates, employees and businesses – the total government-led contribution is worth $450 million.
The minister emphasized that a key component of Brunei’s economic stimulus was keeping and upskilling Bruneians within the workforce, and enabling graduates to enter the workforce with measures including the government-sponsored apprenticeship programme i-Ready, which has been extended to Level 5 Diploma and Level 2 to 5 TVET holders.
“We want to avoid increasing (local) unemployment as much as possible,” said
YB Dato Amin Liew. “If someone becomes unemployed (because of the COVID-19 impact) and then receives (cash) handouts from the government, it will not be sustainable, as what happens after they are done spending? If they are kept in employment, they will continue to be productive and be able to contribute to society, and could even fill in positions held by foreigners who are leaving.”
He also encouraged employees and businesses experiencing a decrease in commercial activity to consider investing their time into government-sponsored training which includes online business courses from Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) and IT or industry-specific workforce training by the Manpower Planning And Employment Council (MPEC).
For more information on loan deferment, the public can contact their banks or AMBD at +6732388388 or email@example.com.
Kilanas eatery fined $5,000 for allowing customers to dine in
The owner of Kui Fook Restaurant in Kilanas has been fined $5,000 for serving dine-in customers on March 22.
51-year-old Foon Swee Chung was caught by police offering dining between 6am to 10pm three days after the Ministry of Health (MoH) issued a directive banning all dining in at food premises. This the second case of an eatery continuing to offering dine in after the ban.
Chung will have to settle the fine or serve a month in jail. Failing to adhere to directives by MoH under the Infectious Diseases Act is an offence with a penalty up to $10,000 and six months jail time.
Saturday, March 28
COVID-19: MoFE unveils third set of economic measures, including paying 25% of MSME employees’ salary
The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) has unveiled a third set of economic measures to help the private sector mitigate the impact of COVID-19 outbreak, including paying 25% of MSME employees’ salary for three months.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced the new measures in a press conference this evening, as COVID-19 cases rose to 120 with the country recording its first death this morning.
The latest measures focus on upskilling and supporting graduates, employees and local businesses with subsidies, training, grants and paid apprenticeships. The first two interim measures announced on March 19 and 21 covered discounts on corporate tax and utilities and deferment on loan repayments and social security contributions.
25% salary subsidy for MSME employees for three months
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – defined as businesses with less than 100 employees – can claim 25% in salary subsidies for three months for their Bruneian employees with salaries less than $1,500.
MSMEs need to apply for the subsidy by downloading the form from the TAP website starting April 1 and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paid apprenticeships: i-Ready scheme expanded to HND/TVET graduates
The i-Ready scheme, a paid apprenticeship scheme for degree holders of up to three years with a monthly allowance of $800 from the government, has been reduced to 18 months and been expanded to include two additional tiers: Bruneians with a Level 5 Diploma (HND or Advanced Diploma equivalent) and those completing Level 2 to 4 under Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET).
Those with degrees and above are to receive a monthly allowance of $800 plus a $400 top-up from their employer/host organization, those with Level 5 Diplomas will receive an allowance of $600 plus a $300 top-up and TVET holders will receive $400 in allowance with $300 topped up.
All top-ups must be borne by the host organisation from the 11-month mark of their apprenticeship. The government will also contribute TAP and SCP payments during their apprenticeship. The availability of i-Ready positions are based on the submitted demand by hiring organisations.
Organisations and graduates looking to participate in the i-Ready scheme can visit JobCentre Brunei (JCB).
Grants and business matching for e-Commerce and logistics
Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) will be prioritising its existing co-matching grant of up to $20,000 for businesses looking to start or expand into e-Commerce and logistics. As dining at eateries has been banned and social distancing is being encouraged during the outbreak, online shopping and delivery provides a convenient and safe alternative to buying goods including daily essentials.
Together with AITI, DARe will also be matching businesses with local e-commerce platforms with delivery solutions. The endorsed platforms, along with information on how to participate, will be announced on April 1 on DARe and AITI’s websites.
Revamping of JCB website
The JCB website has been revamped to streamline the filing of job applications while also adding new features such as real-time notifications for job matches and updates on applications.
Companies will also be able to get talent profiles and compatibility reports on potential employees for particular positions based on algorithms. The Manpower Planning And Employment Council (MPEC) who oversees JCB will also be working with the private sector, especially the sectors of manufacturing, security, online services and logistics, which have been identified as needing a larger workforce.
Online business courses
DARe will be offering its Industry Business Academy online through Coursera, a leading online learning platform that provides business capacity building classes by accredited experts around the globe. Over 300 business-related courses in seven key domains including marketing and sales, finance and accounting, innovation and design and data skills will be accessible to businesses and fully sponsored by DARe.
Upskilling of the private sector
MPEC is encouraging companies to send their Bruneian staff for upskilling and reskilling. MPEC is providing online and hands-on courses in IT, including programming and data analytics, as well as in food and beverage.
Cancellation of rental for all stalls and markets under MoHA for six months starting March 2020
Home-based Mabohai eatery fined $5,000 for offering dine in
The owner of a home-based eatery in Mabohai has become the first case to be fined $5,000 for offering dine in during the COVID-19 outbreak.
62-year-old Ting Siew Kiing pleaded guilty on March 25 before the Magistrate’s Court for continuing to offer dining in inside the living room of her flat in Mabohai on March 21, 2020, two days after the Ministry of Health (MoH) issued a directive banning all dining in at food premises.
Kiing admitted to knowing about the directive but continued to offer dining in and will now face a month in jail if she fails to settle the fine.
Failing to adhere to directives by MoH under the Infectious Diseases Act is an offence with a penalty up to $10,000 and six months jail time.
Friday, March 27
Retail stores to regulate entry, provide sanitisers and temperature checks: MoH
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has advised mall and shop owners to regulate the entry of customers to prevent crowding while also conducting temperature checks and providing hand sanitisers before entry.
MoH Minister, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohammad Isham issued the reminder at a press conference today as civil servants are expected to receive their monthly salary tomorrow.
Shops are also advised to set up distancing signage of at least one metre at payment counters and other areas of potential crowding for customers to be reminded of maintaining social distance. Trolleys and shopping baskets should also be kept clean.
“Anyone who feels unwell should avoid going to crowded places with a lot of people. Whenever possible, use established facilities such as online banking,” said the minister.
Health and beauty establishments can continue to operate
Health and beauty establishments in Brunei including barbershops, salons and massage parlours are currently allowed to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Jaafar advised the public to only visit establishments that they previously frequent and trust in their hygiene practices.
“This depends on trust between the worker and those who are coming in; for example if we go to the barbershop, the one we always go to (we need to check) are they clean, washing hands (etc),” he said in response to a question from the media about the safety of the public visiting health and beauty establishments where close contact is likely.
“Massage is more tricky (since) it’s very close contact and if possible don’t (go) unless you know the masseuse well and you can trust (them). Right now certain countries have banned (these establishments) but we haven’t yet, so it depends on trust.”
Thursday, March 26
Belait markets close
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has ordered the closure of Seria’s Tamuneka Sungai Bera and Tamuneka of the Pasarneka Parking Lot and Kuala Belait’s Tamuneka of the Pasarneka Parking Lot.
MoHA said the closure is part of wider efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. MoHA has also closed Tutong markets under its jurisdiction.
Markets in Brunei-Muara have been allowed to continue operating but must close any dining areas. The Temburong markets were initially ordered to close a day after the Temburong bridge opened on March 17, but have since been allowed to operate on reduced hours from 8am to 3pm from Monday to Thursday and Saturday.
For more information contact the Belait District Office at 334806 and Kuala Belait and Seria Municipal Board at 3330780.
Wednesday, March 25
Domo seeks drivers as deliveries nearly double during COVID-19 outbreak
Mobile-based online marketplace Domo is searching for more drivers as its daily deliveries nearly double to 100 as demand surges for food takeaway during the COVID-19 outbreak.
CEO of DXM Sdn Bhd, who launched Domo in the second quarter of 2019, said their platform engagement has reached an all-time high of over 14,000 application downloads with 9,000 active users – 1,500 who are using the app daily.
“We have 10 to 15 drivers at present but are searching for more. There is no registration fee – to join, drivers must have a valid class three license and use their own car and fuel. Their payment (salary) is keeping the full delivery fee for each order they make,” said Darryn Liew.
Domo charges customers a $5 delivery fee for orders in Brunei-Muara, $6 to Tutong and $8 to Belait. Orders between vendors and customers from the same district are $5.
Drivers are to use hand sanitizers, face masks and hand gloves provided by Domo while picking up and delivering orders as part of the company’s new health and safety measures instituted during the outbreak.
Customers can also request their orders to be left at a designated point, ensuring contactless delivery. Orders typically take 45 minutes to arrive and payment is done exclusively through credit and debit cards keyed in on the application.
Brunei recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 7 and has banned dining in at all food premises since March 19 until further notice, although takeaways are still allowed.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence or recorded cases of COVID-19 being transmitted through food, with the respiratory illness largely transmitted through close contact.
Full story here.
BruPay waives fees on eWallets during COVID-19
Mobile app BruPay has waived all fees across its eWallets indefinitely during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Their withdrawal fee of 1.5% and merchant-to-merchant transaction fee of $0.25 or 0.25% (whichever is higher) have been waived on the platform to assist local businesses in accepting contactless payments for transactions.
“MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) don’t have the luxury of having a credit card machine or means to collect payment online, other than bank transfers,” said BruPay CEO, Hj Sophian Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny.
“We at BruPay want to do our part for the local business community by enabling them to receive contactless payments at no extra cost.”
The move comes after businesses have become more conscious of handling cash due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission, making contactless payments an ideal solution to continuing transactions while maintaining social distance.
Full story here.
Tuesday, March 24
Companies supplying food and medical supplies allowed to enter Brunei
Companies bringing food, medical supplies and other essential items are not required to seek approval from the Department of Immigration and National Registration to enter Brunei.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) made the clarification in a press conference following March 23’s announcement barring all foreigners from entering Brunei.
The employees of transport companies are therefore exempted from the ban, but must meet the MoH guidelines, while goods being brought in must comply with regulations by customs or other controlling government agencies.
Marriage registrations suspended; ceremonies to be postponed
The Syariah Court’s Office of Marriages, Divorces, Annulments and Reconciliation for Muslims has suspended all wedding registrations and solemnization ceremonies from March 24 until further notice.
This includes ceremonies that have already been given permission, according to a statement by the Syariah Court’s Office. The move is in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Brunei, and is expected have an impact on businesses facilitating or providing services to weddings including photography, F&B, tailors, wedding planners, event management and venues.
For more information contact the Brunei-Muara District Syariah Court at 2221473, Belait District Syariah Court at 3330385 (ext 222/223), Tutong District Syariah Court at 4220504, and Temburong District Syariah Court at 5221019.
Temburong market reopens
The Tamu Aneka Temburong has reopened from 8am to 3pm from Monday to Thursday and Saturday according to a public notice confirmed by the Temburong District Office.
Only 30 visitors will be allowed into the marketplace at one time. The Tamu Aneka and Tamur Besar – located within the same area – were initially ordered to close a day after the Temburong bridge opened on March 17.
The closure came after several images were circulated on social media and WhatsApp showing large crowds gathering at the market the day of the bridge’s opening.
Monday, March 23
Foreigners banned from entering Brunei starting March 24
Brunei will not allow foreigners to enter the country starting tomorrow to reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 cases, said the Minister of Home Affairs.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press conference that the ban applies to all entry points and includes foreign transit passengers.
Permit letters for visit, student and dependent visa issued by the Immigration and National Registration Department as well as Brunei’s embassies and foreign offices will also be suspended.
Foreign nationals – including expatriates – issued with visit, student and dependent visas or re-entry visas, who are still in their home countries, will also have to defer their travel to Brunei.
All foreign workers were banned from entry to Brunei starting March 21.
The minister said authorities will give exemptions for foreigners required for essential services in Brunei. These must be applied to the Department of Immigration and National Registration by filling in an application available from their website and submitted to email@example.com. For more information contact 2383106 or the same email.
Lodging providers urged to lend accommodation for isolation
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has asked lodging owners with available spaces for isolation to help accommodate individuals arriving into Brunei.
All international arrivals into Brunei must undergo isolation for 14 days, and isolating in dedicated accommodation – away from home – is the most effective method to prevent community spread, said MoH Minister, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham in a press conference.
He welcomed owners of buildings, hotels, apartments and hostels to contact the National Disaster Management Centre at 7190521 to inquire or register as monitoring centres.
Foreign nationals are currently required to pay between $30 to $50 a night for accommodation and meal expenses while in isolation, while Bruneians are being fully sponsored.
The government has assigned several hotels so far including the Rizqun International Hotel, Mulia Hotel and The Empire Brunei.
The Empire’s package is $100 a night for Bruneians inclusive of meals, while foreigners are offered the market rate.
Testing and treatment for COVID-19 is free for all persons in Brunei.
Saturday, March 21
HM: Food supplies sufficient, avoid panic buying
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam called on the nation to be united and prepared in battling the COVID-19 outbreak, as the nation records 83 total cases as of March 21.
His Majesty reaffirmed in a titah that the nation has stock of rice and sugar to meet daily demand. The Ministry of Finance and Economy has also extended the operating hours of state stores on Fridays, Sundays and public holidays to enable shops to purchase and replenish their stock on demand.
“I am aware that all of us are experiencing shock but not to an extent of panicking as it could affect stability,” said the monarch. “However, there are some who are engaged in panic buying of basic necessities leading to a drastic drop in rice supplies at shops in the country.”
His Majesty added that the government would not hesitate to take legal action against businesses taking advantage of the ongoing pandemic to illegally hike up the price of goods.
MoFE introduces new measures to support businesses during COVID-19 outbreak
The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) has introduced a second set of interim measures centered around tax, utility and social security deductions and deferments to help Brunei’s private sector amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced the new measures in a press conference today, two days after he announced the first state-led economic remediation measure enabling businesses in select sectors to defer loan repayments for up six months with banks.
The minister also clarified that the deferring of loan repayments would be extended to the wider business community, subject to case review by the lending institutions.
“Businesses (outside the four sectors) that have been affected can approach their banks to have their repayments reviewed or restructured,” said the minister.
The new measures effective April 1, 2020 for six months are:
- A six-month deferment on Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and Supplementary Contributory Pension (SCP) for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with employees earning less than $1,500. The government will continue monthly contributions to ensure that the annual dividend payments to employees are not affected. MSMEs need to apply for the deferment and are to repay the contributions within a year after the final month of deferment. MSMEs are defined as businesses with less than 100 employees.
- The government will provide the full SCP contribution for the self-employed. The self-employed SCP scheme carries a survivorship benefit which includes a $400 monthly payout to dependents for up to 15 years – in addition to receiving the SCP already paid up – if the participant passes away before 60-years-old.
- For the sectors of tourism, hospitality (including hotels and registered lodging houses), food and beverage as well as air and water transport: 30% discount on rental rates for government buildings for MSMEs, 50% discount on corporate tax for companies (private/public limited or sendirian berhad/berhad) for 2020 and 15% discount on water and electric bills.
- Up to six months extension for i-Ready apprentices for trainees whose contracts are ending before September 2020.
- Temporary exemption of customs and excise duties on personal hygiene products to help retailers and consumers manage prices amidst increasing demand. Pricing of essentials items will continue to be monitored and regulated under the Consumer Protection Order and Price Control Act.
- Business matching by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) for MSMEs to onboard e-commerce platforms to help market their services/products online more effectively to mitigate challenges in offline retail.
Hengyi donates US$1 million in medical supplies
Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co Ltd has donated US$1 million in medical supplies and equipment to the Ministry of Health to help the government tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
The supplies from China will be made in several shipments, with the first arriving next week including five ventilators and 50 electric hospital beds to be used at hospitals and isolation centres.
Friday, March 20
Recruitment of foreign workers to Brunei suspended
Applications to recruit new foreign workers into Brunei has been suspended starting tomorrow (March 21) until further notice as the COVID-19 outbreak rose to 78 cases yesterday.
However foreign manpower required for critical operations of certain sectors in Brunei will be still assessed said the Minister of Home Affairs during the annoucement of the new recruitment measures yesterday in a press conference.
YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong added applications to renew the Foreign Workers License (LPA) of expatriates currently residing in Brunei would still be accepted.
The suspension affects the following:
- LPA applications for foreign workers, including those made before March 21, 2020
- Applications to recruit domestic workers, including those made before March 21, 2020
- Applications for work visas, including those made before March 21, 2020
- Work visa authorisation letters issued by the Immigration and National Registration Department
- Work visas issued by embassies and high commissions of Brunei abroad
In addition, foreign workers currently residing in their home countries that have been issued work visas or re-entry visas to Brunei are to delay their travel to Brunei until further notice.
Thursday, March 19
Brunei banks agree to defer repayments for select business sectors amidst COVID-19 outbreak
The Brunei government and the banking industry have agreed to defer financing and loan repayments for up to six months for four sectors yesterday to help mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The deferment on principal repayments applies to businesses within the sectors of tourism, hospitality/event management, food and beverage (restaurant/cafes) and air transport as well as importers of food and medical supplies. Interest or profit rates still apply.
The Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew made the announcement at a press conference yesterday that updated that the COVID-19 outbreak in the Sultanate had increased to 73 cases.
The minister said that the interim deferments – the first official state-led measures to alleviate financial burdens of Brunei businesses in the outbreak – were initiated by Brunei’s central bank Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) with the support of the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) and the Brunei Association of Banks (BAB).
The minister added that all bank fees and charges related to trade and payment transactions for companies in these sectors would be waived for six months. Local interbank transfer fees will also be waived for six months for all customers.
In a press statement, AMBD encouraged banks to review their lending rates in the prevailing environment.
Brunei’s borders to close 8pm; no restriction on transporting goods
All border control posts will close at 8pm instead of 10pm in the second shortening of operating hours to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Borders will continue to open at 6am. Domestic and foreign companies transporting goods can also enter and leave Brunei, clarified the Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah in a press conference.
Hotels and apartments to be used for isolation
Hotels and apartments will be used for isolating visitors returning to Brunei, to further reduce the risk of community spread from isolating at home with family members, said the Ministry of Health in a press conference. All inbound travellers must undergo 14 days of isolation.
MoH warns against salary cut for quarantined and isolated staff
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has warned employers not to cut annual leave or salary of employees required to undergo isolation or quarantine by the ministry.
In his daily address to the media over the COVID-19 outbreak, MoH Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Jaafar said employers can be reported to the Labour Department at 2381848 or 7298989.
He added that an additional medical letter from a doctor should not be required by the employer, with the issuing of the isolation notice or quarantine order providing sufficient documentation.
According to existing labour regulations, employees are entitled to 14 days of paid outpatient sick leave and 60 days hospitalization leave annually.
Wednesday, March 18
Dining in at food premises in Brunei banned; takeaway allowed
Dining in at all food premises in Brunei will be banned starting March 19 until further notice as COVID-19 cases rose to 68 yesterday, but takeout and food deliveries will still be allowed.
Minister of Home Affairs (MoHA), YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said in a press conference that the dine-in ban applies to any site serving food to the public including restaurants, cafes, food courts and tamu (hawker stalls/marketplaces).
He added that the daily evening and weekend market in Temburong – Tamu Aneka and Tamu Besar – located within the same area, along with the Tamu Tutong market, will be closed until further notice. Other open-air markets around the country will continue to be open.
Gyms, bowling centres and golf clubs to close
All sporting facilities including private gyms, bowling centres and golf courses will be be closed until further notice, said the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.
Other MCYS facilities – youth centres, museums, libraries and galleries – will also be closed temporarily. Brunei’s only amusement park Jerudong Park Playground, along with its accompanying gardens and amphitheatre will be closed temporarily, but its food court will remain open for takeaways.
Temburong bridge opening hours reduced
Opening hours for the Temburong bridge have been reduced to 6am to 6pm, one day after the bridge was first opened for public use from 6am to 10pm.
Second Finance and Economy Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew said in a press conference that the reduction comes after it appeared that motorists were flocking to Temburong recreationally, and reminded that the bridge is to be used only for essential travel.
The bridge was opened early to allow Temburong residents to bypass Limbang, Malaysia, as the government imposed a blanket ban on all Brunei residents leaving the country to control the spread of COVID-19.
The Public Works Department (JKR) clarified that commercial vehicles (Class 2 and 5) are required to obtain a permit to use the bridge. The application form can be downloaded from JKR’s website and submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DARe issues survey to businesses to measure impact of COVID-19
Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) is encouraging the business community to fill in a survey reporting how the COVID-19 outbreak has affected their businesses. The results of the survey will enable national agencies to develop a comprehensive assessment of the impact.
Click here to fill in the survey.
Tuesday, March 17
Sufficient food supply in Brunei
Current local production and imports of livestock, poultry, seafood and fresh produce are sufficient to meet local demand, said the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, YB Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Ali Hj Apong.
The minister said that they are closely monitoring local production and imports amid reports of panic buying by the public due to the coronavirus outbreak. He also advised businesses not to take advantage of the ongoing situation to hike prices.
“Based on information provided by entrepreneurs as well as ongoing monitoring of these businesses, there is adequate production to meet the local demand including during the upcoming Ramadhan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities,” he said in a press conference.
Cinemas ordered to close
Cinemas nationwide have been ordered to close starting tomorrow to curb the spread of COVID-19, announced the Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Jaafar in a press conference.
Monday, March 16
Temburong bridge opens March 17
The highly anticipated Temburong bridge will open for public use starting March 17 from 6am to 10pm daily.
The 26km oversea bridge is being opened ahead of schedule to allow Temburong residents to bypass Limbang, Malaysia, as the government imposed a blanket ban on all Brunei residents leaving the country to control the spread of COVID-19.
Only Brunei-registered vehicles under Class 1, 3, 4 and 6 are allowed to use the bridge without approval. Brunei-registered commercial vehicles (Class 5) must apply for a permit from the Bridge Maintenance Office.
Cyclists and foreign-registered vehicles are not permitted to use the bridge at present. Second Minister of Finance and Economy (MoFE) YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in a press conference that the bridge would be continuously monitored for safety and could be closed during adverse weather or any other instance that warrants a closure.
Construction on the $1.4 billion bridge began in 2014 by Korean company Daelim and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
Borders to close at 10pm
The Immigration and National Registration Department has announced that all border control posts will close at 10pm from March 16 until further notice.
Borders will continue to open at 6am. The move to close borders two hours earlier comes after the government’s directive to ban all Brunei residents from leaving the country.
Sunday, March 15
All residents in Brunei barred from leaving country
All residents in Brunei, including foreigners, are barred from leaving the country starting March 16 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The outbound travel ban was announced yesterday in a press conference where the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced 10 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 50.
Tourists will be allowed to leave, but all other residents must apply for approval from the Prime Minister’s Office, which can be done through itswebsite.
Legitimate grounds for leaving include medical treatment, court hearings or resuming studies.
MoH Minister, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press conference that the travel ban would remain in place until the country is able to effectively contain the spread virus.
He added that efforts should focus squarely on preventing the situation from spiraling beyond the healthcare system’s treatment capacity, which could trigger a lockdown.
MoH issues workplace procedure for COVID-19
Workplaces in Brunei must appoint a senior member of staff to be the main focal point for liaising with the Ministry of Health (MoH) on COVID-19 related developments.
MoH said in a press statement that their duty officers would contact the head of department or focal point should a member of staff be diagnosed with COVID-19.
Employees diagnosed with COVID-19 (outside Brunei’s healthcare) should be reported to the 24-hour hotline at 148.
“The focal point should identify all staff who were in contact with the (any COVID-19) confirmed case since the date that the case became symptomatic (showing symptoms),” said MoH.
“This includes all staff who share an office space or area (if in an open plan office), close colleagues and other collaborators, staff who shared meeting rooms and other staff who were in a confined space with the case for greater than 30 minutes duration.”
The workplace focal point should compile the list of staff who have been in close contact with the COVID-19 case – recording the name, contact number and IC number – and must send them home for isolation and await further instructions from MoH. This list should be shared with MoH’s duty officer.
MoH issues FAQ on mass gatherings
To clarify the government’s restrictions on public gatherings, the Ministry of Health has issued an FAQ, which includes the definition of mass gatherings:150320-MOHfaq
Friday, March 13
Government bans mass gatherings
The government is banning all mass gatherings as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rises to 37. The ban is applicable to sporting events, large personal gatherings such as weddings as well as other ticketed events and bazaars. The Ministry of Health said the restriction was made based on the national situation and advice from the World Health Organisation.
SHENA releases workplace advisory for COVID-19
The Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA) has released a general workplace advisory for COVID-19. Full statement:032020-SHENA-workplace-advisory-COVID-19
Thursday, March 12
Legal action against those not complying with coronavirus directives
The government has amended the Infection Disease Act to increase the penalty for those who do not comply with official directives issued on the COVID-19 outbreak.
The maximum penalty for a first offence is $10,000 or six months in jail, up from $200. Subsequent offences may be fined up to $20,000 or jailed for up to a year.
The Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar in a press conference said that under the act, “anyone who is suspected to be, a case, carrier or contact of infectious diseases are required to carry out medical examinations or medical treatment in hospital or any places determined by the Director General of the Ministry of Health.
“Failure to comply is an offence under the act and the concerned person can be ordered to be transferred to a hospital or another place where he may be detained and, if necessary, isolated until examination or treatment is completed.
“In addition, those who obstruct or assist in obstructing authorised officers in carrying their duties, or provided false information or misleading information, will also be committing an offence under the law.”
The amendments under the act are Infectious Diseases (Amendment of Schedule) Notification, 2020, and Infectious Diseases (Quarantine) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020.