The government has extended its partial lockdown for another two weeks (September 4) to combat the spread of a growing second wave of COVID-19 transmissions.
Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar announced the extension last Saturday at the COVID-19 press conference with the ministry now treating 1,096 active cases.
The control measures announced on August 7 and 9 closed recreational, learning, personal care, and entertainment establishments; mandated the wearing of masks; and limited leaving home for essential work, and the purchase of daily necessities.
Prior to August 7, Brunei had gone 457 days without community transmission, with the country easing most control measures although borders remained closed except for essential travel and goods.
The minister said a full lockdown at this juncture would be moot if people continue to spread the virus by crossing the border illegally for smuggling or other reasons.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham added that while they anticipated a potential second wave, the extent of spread – more than a tenfold increase in cases from the first outbreak in March last year – has been unexpected.
Singapore offers vaccinated travel lane for Brunei
Singapore is set to offer travelers from Brunei a vaccinated travel lane starting September 8 which voids the need to quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.
The travel lane is open for those who have received both vaccine doses, and requires four COVID-19 tests: 48 hours before their scheduled flight; on arrival test Changi Airport; and post-arrival tests on days three and seven at designated clinics in Singapore.
Brunei’s 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 COVID-19 press conference that the provision of the travel lane was made by the Singapore government unliterally.
Brunei will therefore maintain its own Standard Operating Procedures for travel which allows travel only for essential purposes -requiring an application and government approval – as well as quarantine for those arriving.
The standard quarantine period after arriving to Brunei is 14 days, but may be reduced depending on the government’s assessment of the foreign country’s current risk-profile.
Brunei’s previous green lane arrangement with Singapore set up in September last year saw visitors to both countries only needing to remain in isolation for one to three days until they receive their COVID-19 test results.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said since Singapore is currently designated as low-risk, arrivals from the city state would only need to be in quarantine until they tested negative.
Channel News Asia reported that Royal Brunei Airlines and Singapore Airlines will run three designated flights a week.
70% of population must be vaccinated before travel restrictions can be eased
Adding on to his previous comments about learning to live with COVID-19 in a new normal, the Minister of Health said at least 70% of Brunei residents should be fully vaccinated before the government can consider easing travel restrictions.
“It is very likely that the coronavirus will be living with us so we have to live with that, so the way to control (its spread and negative effects) is through vaccination,” he said.
“That was the plan from early on. If we have 70% to 80% of the population vaccinated with two doses then we can consider.”