This is a dedicated page to covering business news in Brunei relating to the COVID-19 outbreak from August 7, 2021. Check-in for live updates on regulations, announcements, and opportunities.
Tuesday, September 14
Full lockdown to jeopardize economy and employment
The Brunei government has stopped short of ordering for a full lockdown to combat the second wave of COVID-19 because of the serious implications a shutdown will have on the economy and wider society.
The Minister of Health and the Second Minister of Finance and Economy have said in recent days that while enforcing a lockdown is an option if the outbreak worsens, they are confident that the current set of control measures can flatten the curve if the public fully adheres to them.
Despite new cases reported daily, an increase in consistent daily recoveries has meant that the overall number of active COVID-19 cases in Brunei has dropped to 1,548 as of September 14, from a peak of over 1,800 in early September.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported on Monday that since August 14, 39 residents with red codes on BruHealth have been found violating their quarantine orders during patrols and roadblocks done by the police. These numbers indicate there are still residents risking further community transmission.
MoH has stepped up stay-at-home guidelines recently by mandating a red bracelet for COVID-19 patients and a blue bracelet for close contacts or those awaiting swab results.
Those wearing both bracelets are not allowed to be out in public, and being spotted with them in public or removing them before the specified date is a $5,000 fineable offence.
As part of the partial lockdown that has been in place since August 9 and will continue until October 3; recreational, learning, personal care and entertainment establishments have been closed. However other businesses are allowed to remain open.
Brunei’s major industries including upstream and downstream oil and gas also continue productivity with modified business continuity plans (BCP).
“At the moment we can’t really say which business is essential and non-essential. To the business owners, that’s their livelihood. It is essential for them to continue operating,” said Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah on September 12 at the COVID-19 press conference.
“The workers also need income. So it’s essential for them to continue operating as much as possible to continue to pay the salary of the workers. Whether the worker is essential or not depends on the business.”
A full lockdown will also increase the likelihood that certain businesses may fold completely, jeopardising the livelihood of those they employ.
Residents are currently allowed to leave their homes for work, outdoor exercise, visiting their parents and purchasing essentials. MoH Minister Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said residents and businesses should adhere to current measures fully, before a lockdown is a considered.
“To carry out or implement a lockdown is far from easy, as it means no movement for least a month. No one will be allowed to send food or go to work for a month,” he said at the press conference on September 10.
“Not only will this take a toll on the economy, but on mental health, as well. We wish to avoid a full lockdown, since it will have an adverse impact on many.”
70% vaccination target on track as Brunei receives donations for 200,000 doses
With Japan and China recently donating 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines respectively, the Sultanate is back on track to achieving its 70% vaccination goal by the end of the year.
Brunei temporarily suspended first vaccine doses on September 1 for the general population as supply ran low and prioritised the remaining vaccines for administering second doses and vaccinating at-risk populations.
32% of the population is fully vaccinated with two doses as of September 14.
The Sultanate’s Pfizer vaccine orders are also expected to arrive before the end of 2021, which will be given to adolescents above 12-years-old.
Other countries have rolled back restrictions after the majority of their population has been fully vaccinated. The Minister of Health said that Brunei must consider the severity of local cases before scaling down, even if the vaccination goal has been achieved.
“Even if we reach (the target), we need to decide how will we scale down. A lot of factors need to be considered such as the state of healthcare system at the time, especially the number of critical cases,” he said.
Sunday, September 12
No evidence for COVID-19 transmission through food
There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmissible through food, reiterated the Minister of Health.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said at the COVID-19 press conference that there are no reported cases or existing research proving that the virus can be passed through food.
The minister pointed out that there have been reports of transmission over buffets on cruise ships, likely due to the sharing and central stationing area for eating utensils like plates and spoons.
The Ministry of Health had previously banned buffets in the country after the first wave last year.
Sunday, September 11
77 loan deferments approved under COVID-19 relief
77 loan deferments and debt restructuring applications have been approved by Brunei banks as part of COVID-19 economic relief measures during the ongoing second wave of COVID-19, said the Second Minister of Finance and Economy.
Another 81 applications are being processed while five have been rejected, according to latest data from the Brunei Darussalam Central Bank shared by YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah during the COVID-19 press conference on September 11.
Applications for payment deferments are open until December 31 and form part of the wider economic relief interim measures by the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) to help businesses and individuals whose income has been adversely affected by the pandemic.
Deferments were part of relief measures during the first outbreak of COVID-19 in March last year, with 2,014 applications approved between April and December 2020.
The minister explained that banks review deferment applications individually, with each case requiring to show that their cash flow or ability to make repayments has been compromised because of the pandemic.
Full story here.
Friday, September 5
House-to-house services involving physical contact not allowed
House-to-house services that involve close physical contact such as hair cutting and doing make up are not allowed under the current partial lockdown, said the Minister of Health on September 4 and 5.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said that businesses or freelancers are not allowed to provide services that involve physical contact at customer’s homes even if they take precautions such as as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The minister said that there is no method at present to ascertain if the PPE used is up to medical standards and if it is being reused by the vendor. He advised that people be patient and wait for control measures to ease before resuming these services.
“Make-up artists conduct their jobs in close contact with clients, even closer than a barber is to a customer. So to reduce the risk of infections, such services are not encouraged,” he said in response to a reporter’s question at the COVID-19 press conference on whether such services are allowed.
“As we have seen from the video of people conducting home to home services. It shows a person arriving at the house in a jupiter suit, but we don’t know from which house he came from, or whether or not the suit was recycled – as it is quite expensive.”
Barbershops, salons and other health and beauty service establishments are currently prohibited from operating.
Friday, September 3
Contact tracing to decide whether businesses with positive cases are closed
Contact tracing conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) will decide if businesses with positive COVID-19 cases need to temporarily close.
Although several businesses have proactively ceased operations when COVID-19 cases are reported amongst their employees, some businesses have continued to operate, drawing ire and confusion documented in a viral WhatsApp message.
In response, MoH Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said on September 3 that the closure of operations depends on the extent of the positive cases’ movement within the business’ premises and who they’ve interacted with.
Through BruHealth contact tracing and investigations by public health officials, close contacts of positive cases will be identified.
“A business will not be closed (just) because one person tests positive. We will review their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and find out how they are going to contain the infection, such as cleaning where the infected individual rests,” he said at the COVID-19 press conference.
Citing an example of when a business could continue to operate after an employee tests positive, the minister said that if there are 10 close contacts identified in a business with 200 employees, they will have to be separated and undergo testing. The areas where the infected cases visited will have to be cleaned. If there are no further positive tests, then this business can continue operating.
Citing The Mall as an example of a larger establishment required to close temporarily, the minister said that the initial positive case was a cleaner, who had operated throughout the establishment. “But once it is cleansed and the contacts are identified, we will allow it to re-open,” he said.
Using another example, the minister said that if a small business has three out of five workers infected, they will most likely have to close, especially if they are in close quarters.
Those awaiting their swab test results, have been identified as close contacts or have a BruHealth red code should not report to work physically.
Thursday, September 2
Brunei’s partial lockdown extended to October 3
Brunei has extended its partial lockdown until October 3 to help curb the ongoing second COVID-19 wave fueled by the Delta variant.
The extension was announced by the Minister of Health YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham on September 2 at the COVID-19 press conference, with the country reporting 1,801 active cases and 11 deaths.
The control measures were first announced on August 7 and 9 and while daily recoveries are increasing, substantial risk remains with just over 20% of the population fully vaccinated.
Essential travel requires full vaccination
Residents leaving Brunei for essential travel must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two months before their flight date.
With first doses of the COVID-19 currently on hold for the general population due to a vaccine shortage, Minister of Health YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the existing vaccine supply could be potentially utilised for those needing to travel urgently.
“We can look into it, but it depends on how urgent or important the business travel is as the vaccines are very limited at the moment and needs to be prioritised for those who really need them,” he said at the COVID-19 press conference on September 2.
The government is currently prioritizing their vaccine stock for those scheduled to receive their second dose, as well as for at-risk populations including the elderly, pregnant woman and people with different abilities.
Just over 50% of Brunei residents have received their first dose, with 23% having received both doses as of September 3. The government is targeting 70% of the population to be fully vaccinated by the year’s end.
As of September 2, 20 Brunei residents have received Vaccinated Travel Passes from the Singapore government to travel to the city state between September 8 and October 7. 18 are for short-term visits while the other two are long-term pass holders.
The passes are under Singapore’s new vaccinated travel lane, which voids the need for visitors to quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19. Brunei’s borders are still closed except for essential travel, 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.
Members of the public are not allowed to pick up or greet passengers at the Brunei International Airport. Passengers must be dropped off at the departure terminal without accompanying persons said the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in a statement on August 29.
Those entering the airport must have BruHealth and scan the QR code upon entry. Those working at the airport without BruHealth must fill in a log book and show their employee ID. Passengers who cannot download BruHealth must also use the log book and submit proof of travel documentations including their negative COVID-19 test.
Saturday, August 21
Brunei’s partial lockdown extended to Sept 4
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 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.”
Friday, August 20
Ghanim’s Buy Local Produce Campaign helps local farmers access markets during pandemic
Ghanim International Corporation has activated its Buy Local Produce Campaign (BLPC) to help local farmers access markets during the ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
BLPC has engaged 32 growers supplying up to 93 different types of produce since its introduction in April last year during the first outbreak of COVID-19.
Through the campaign, the government-owned Ghanim buys from local producers directly and supplies them to their retail network, which now includes their own Junction outlets, supermarkets, and restaurants as well as e-commerce platforms Agrome Market and Community for Brunei.
BLPC is currently focusing on collecting produce from the closed tamus or markets in Tutong and Seria every Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Ghanim sets up a counter at the tamus on these days for farmers to drop off their produce. The first collection was made in Seria on August 12.
The main tamus of Tutong and Seria have been shuttered as they are points of mass gatherings every Thursday and Saturday respectively, where large numbers of vendors set up shop for the day.
Farmers looking to participate in BLPC can contact Ghanim at 7180064 with details including the list of their products, amount and price, preferably three days in advance for Ghanim to find buyers and make other arrangements.
Read the full story here.
Thursday, August 19
Go cashless where possible: MoH and MoFE
The public should avoid exchanging cash wherever possible during the ongoing second wave of COVID-19.
The Minister of Health and Second Minister of Finance and Economy said at the COVID-19 press conferences on August 17 and 19 that digital payments should be prioritized to reduce contact and potential transmission of the virus.
Most of these solutions offer no transaction fees to customers, with many offering potential rewards, said Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah.
The minister added that small businesses can also leverage on the digital payment solutions. BIBD’s QR-based QuickPay has been adopted by hundreds of merchants, including home-based businesses and village consultative councils.
As part of the Digital Economy Masterplan, the government is also developing a national e-payment gateway system that banks can use to clear payments by the public.
Broadband use up 50% in 12 months
Broadband use in Brunei has increased 50% in the past 12 months and threefold in the past three years, according to the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and the Unified National Networks (UNN).
As Brunei battles a growing second wave of COVID-19 cases, the government has imposed its strictest measures yet: ordering all non-essential staff to work from home and permitting only two residents to leave their homes at a time.
Schools have also been ordered to move online, cumulatively creating a surge in home broadband use – which combined with ongoing upgrades and other existing issues – has seen users experiencing a slowdown.
In particular, the statement said broadband usage has increased a further 20% from 8pm to midnight.
During the scheduled upgrades on August 14, UNN detected a routing issue that was affecting broadband quality. AITI said tests made the following day showed that users were getting 85% of their subscribed speed, compared to just 24% of on August 12.
Read the full story here.
Hiding red code using logbook liable to $5,000 fine
Residents who attempt to hide their BruHealth red code by using physical logbooks at shops and public spaces are liable to a $5,000 fine if found guilty.
Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Haji Jaafar said those under quarantine or have a red code are not allowed to exit their homes unless ordered to do so by authorities or for a health emergency.
The minister acknowledged that it would be difficult to detect red code holders who leave their phones at home and enter public spaces by filling in the premises’ logbooks instead.
However, the police will be cross-checking with the Ministry of Health the health codes of residents who claim to have left their phones during roadblocks.
“If their names (those without phones and are out of their homes) are listed in the Quarantine Order, they will be fined $5,000,” said the minister at the COVID-19 press conference. “For those attempting to cheat, it isn’t for your own benefit or others either. It is jeopardizing yourself and the entire public.”
Wednesday, August 18
Building tax cuts being discussed
The government is discussing bringing back building tax cuts that were instituted last year during the first outbreak of COVID-19.
With the second wave of transmission since August 7 and the accompanying control measures being more severe, 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 tax cuts were being discussed between the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The tax cut was offered last year for landlords who reduced tenants’ rent by at least 10% for six months, with up to 50% off the building tax for businesses cutting rent by 20% or more.
Under the current control measures, entertainment, recreational, learning and personal care establishments have been ordered to close. Additionally large establishments including The Mall as well as smaller operations have also closed temporarily after recording positive cases recently visiting their premises.
Tuesday, August 17
Employers responsible for employees meeting health guidelines
Businesses and organisations are responsible for their employees meeting health guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Following the circulation of a video of foreign workers appearing to gather in a public space, Second Minister of Finance and Economy and PMO Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah reminded that all employers should ensure their staff are kept up to date with the latest health guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
These include wearing a face mask in public spaces and offices, banning all mass gatherings, retaining physical distancing of two metres between people, and the provision and use of BruHealth QR codes.
“The government will not hesitate in taking swift action against individuals and employers that refuse to following the guidelines that have been issued and are being enforced through penalities listed under the Infectious Diseases Act, Chapter 204,” he said on behalf of PMO at the COVID-19 press conference earlier today.
The foreigners in the video were given a warning but were not fined or prosecuted as the government’s investigation found no wrongdoing.
The minister also reminded that the approved cross-border transport operators who bring in essential goods should continue to observe the SOPs including the wearing of personal protection equipment while loading and unloading their goods.
Businesses servicing customers’ homes: both should observe BruHealth colour codes
Both businesses and customers should have green or yellow BruHealth colour codes when engaging in services at customers’ homes.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Haji Jaafar said business representatives visiting homes to provide services should ensure they have an active BruHealth colour code of green or yellow.
Customers who are receiving these representatives at their homes should also have an active green or yellow code. Those with code red – which corresponds to serving a quarantine notice, having flu-like symptons or having been in contact with a confirmed case – are not allowed to leave their residences.
The minister said those with code red, serving a quarantine order or awaiting COVID-19 test results should not receive guests including business representatives.
“For the business, their staff must also ensure what their health code is (for the day),” he said at the COVID-19 press conference. “When there (at the residence) he must make sure that he is masked. And for the resident to ready hand sanitizer. So both must take (precautionary) preparations, step by step, to avoid any transmission.”
Individuals with a red code can be fined $5,000 of leaving their homes unless they require urgent health treatment or have been ordered by health authorities to take a COVID-19 test.
The other codes on BruHealth are blue – for recovered patients still undergoing 14 days of quarantine, and purple – for COVID-19 patients.
DARe conducts COVID-19 survey to understand pandemic impact on business
Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) has issued an online survey for local businesses to share how the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting their operations.
Businesses can fill in the survey online here, with all information shared being kept confidential. The objective of the survey is to enable DARe and the government to assess the impact and identify appropriate measures to support the continuing operations of businesses.
The survey is a follow up to a previous survey issued last year during the first outbreak of COVID-19. The latest survey will remain open until August 22.
Monday, August 16
Brunei’s oil and gas to continue productivity amid second wave
Brunei’s oil and gas industry – the backbone of its economy – will continue to operate with modified business continuity plans (BCP) admist a growing second wave of COVID-19 cases.
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 it is imperative for the nation’s economy that the upstream and downstream sectors – which contribute more than 54% to GDP – continue productivity.
As of August 15, coronavirus clusters affecting oil and gas operations are at TOTAL with 20 cases, Brunei Shell Petroleum’s (BSP) headquarters with nine cases and the country’s largest offshore platform Champion 7 with seven cases.
“They have already operationalized their BCP, so this will ensure the safety of their employees, and at the same time keep their operation ongoing,” said the minister at the COVID-19 press conference on August 13.
Read the full story here.
Don’t panic buy: essentials sufficiently stocked
The Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) has assured that essential food and living supplies in the country are sufficiently stocked after engagements with retailers, distributors, and producers.
The national stock of fragrant white rice has been increased to an equivalent of eight months of supply, while commercial imports of key packaged food including powdered milk, cooking oil as well as tinned and frozen food are stocked with one to three months supply.
DEPS has been monitoring the prices and availability of essentials on a weekly basis since December 2020. Since the second outbreak of COVID-19 on August 7, DPES extended surveillance to face masks, hand sanitisers, cooking oil, rice, infant milk powder, chicken, beef, eggs, and onions.
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 that since face masks and personal hygiene items are considered essentials in the ongoing pandemic, businesses should not raise prices without reason. Sudden or unsubstantiated price increases of monitored items will require justification.
The minister has repeatedly urged the public not to panic buy or horde essentials to enable everyone to have access.
According to DEPS’ latest report, the supply of chicken, eggs and beef supply is sufficient and is available at shops nationwide.
The list of monitored items, along with nationwide store prices, is released to the public through the Smart Consumer mobile application. Users can also use the app to lodge consumer complaints.
Read the full story here.
Friday, August 13
Businesses must show affected revenue for wage subsidy
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) seeking the government’s 25% wage subsidy must show that their revenue has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak for their application to be successful.
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 earlier today said that subsidy application forms available through TAP’s website must be completed with revenue records and other requested details.
In response to a reporter’s question on private schools and childcare centres not receiving the subsidy, the minister said that businesses whose revenue remain unaffected will not receive the subsidy.
“This subsidy is only for businesses that have been affected; so within their application they need to furnish it with the details fully, their revenue and so on. There are some schools, their fees remain unchanged. So (as an example) the revenue is seen to be the same as before (COVID-19 outbreak), then it is not affected,” he said.
The wage subsidy is only open to MSMEs – businesses with less than 100 employees.
BDCB details loan deferments and fee waivers
The Brunei Darussalam Central Bank (BDCB) have detailed the banking sector’s loan deferments and bank fee waivers to provide temporary relief to businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
BDCB said they would provide regulatory flexibility to encourage banks and financial institutions to offer assistance, subject to their respective assessments.
The types of debt deferment until December 31 are:
1. Deferment on repayment for loans or financing.
2. Restructuring and deferment of repayments for personal loans and hire purchase facilities including car loans for up to ten years.
3. Restructuring outstanding credit card debt into loans not longer than three years. However credit card limit will not be raised within these three years.
Loan deferments are still subject to interest/profit charges, which may accrue additionally with the deferred period.
Debtors must apply to their respective banks and financial institutions directly for deferment, and must outline how their financial position has been jeopardized by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Fees and charges for financing facilities will also be waived, as well as online interbank transfers fees until December 31.
BDCB said the deferments have been in place since March last year in response to the first COVID-19 outbreak. 436 applications were approved from April to June 2020, the majority of which were to defer monthly payments. 2,014 applications were granted between April to December 2020.
For more information contact BDCB at 8318388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, August 12
MoFE announces economic relief measures amid growing second wave
The Ministry of Finance and Economy have announced economic relief measures to help businesses mitigate the impact of the growing second wave of COVID-19 in the country.
The fiscal and monetary-based measures – similar to those enacted in March last year – include salary subsidies, and tax and utility discounts, as well as loan deferments and initiatives by government-linked companies (GLCs) and statutory bodies.
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 earlier today that the interim measures are aimed at helping offset potential losses from the outbreak and safeguard local employment in the private sector.
Below are the measures effective August 1 to December 31, 2021.
Deferment of TAP and SCP
Deferment of the monthly contributions of 5% to the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and 3.5% to the Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) for employees with monthly salaries less than $1,500.
Employers must repay the contributions in a year’s period. Applicable to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – businesses with less than 100 employees.
25% salary subsidy
The government will subsidise up to 25% of the monthly salary for those employed by MSMEs and earning less than $1,500. Applications for subsidies and contributions can be done by downloading the required forms from TAP’s website and emailing email@example.com
SCP contribution for the self employed
The government will fully fund SCP for the self-employed to ensure their survivorship fund is unaffected. The fund provides monthly payouts of $400 to the dependents of those that pass away before 60, in addition to paying out the total SCP amount.
For affected businesses, the government provides the following discounts: 50% off corporate tax for 2022; 30% off rental rates for MSMEs occupying government buildings and; 20% off water and electric bills.
Exemption of customs and excise duty for personal hygiene products
Loan deferments and waiving of bank fees
Deferment on repayment of loans or financing for businesses and individuals as well as waiving of banking fees and charges for trade, payment and interbank transfer. Deferments are at the request of debtors and subject to approval by banks.
Read more here.
Wednesday, August 11
All organisations must activate business continuity plan
The government has ordered all organisations to activate their business continuity plan (BCP), which includes retaining only essential staff on site while allowing remaining staff to work-from-home, as local community transmissions of COVID-19 continue to climb.
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 on August 10 that the BCP activation applies to both the private and public sector.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) identified seven essential sectors on August 9 where staff can continue to work, including frontliners, public utilities, and oil and gas.
Organisations with essential activities that do no fall specifically into these sectors can continue to operate provided they activate their BCP.
Staff and organisations that must cease physical operations fall under MoH’s closure list announced on August 7 which include entertainment, recreational, personal care, and learning facilities.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin and MoH Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said a BCP must show action in at least reducing staff and/or segregating them safely on site.
A BCP is an organization’s strategy to remain capable of safely delivering its targeted products and services following a disruptive situation.
The Second Minister of MOFE said alternative working arrangements as part of an effective BCP include reducing total workforce on site, segregating on site staff into separate locations, and dividing staff into rotating teams on site.
Read more here.
Sunday, August 9
Brunei tightens control measures amid new surge of COVID-19 cases
The government has banned mass gatherings, ordered all non-essential employees to work-from-home and limited the number of people leaving home to two for daily necessities.
The second round of control measures – the strictest the government has mandated under the pandemic – come after Brunei recorded an all-time high of 42 new COVID-19 cases, 38 which are local transmissions. The measures are effective immediately (August 9 @ 4pm) until August 21.
The Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Haji Jaafar announced the measures at the COVID-19 press conference yesterday, where he outlined the specific requirements and exemptions.
On leaving your residence:
Leaving home is not allowed without significant reason. Two people from a family or residence are allowed to leave home to buy necessities. This directive will be enforced, but not with fines at present.
On working from home:
All staff in public and private sector required to work from home, with the following essential sectors exempted:
- Frontliners: including those working in health, security, hospitality and transport
- Daily necessities: food and other retail business
- Utilities: electricity, water, telecommunications
- Oil and gas: upstream and downstream
- Agrifood and forestry
- Border control posts
On mass gatherings:
- No mass gatherings allowed, except for:
- Funerals (non COVID-19), where up to 15 people are allowed
- Marriage solemnization or nikah, where up to five people are allowed
- Visiting parents who live separately from family: only two family members are allowed to visit at a time
- Exercising in pairs outdoors from the same household.
On wearing face masks:
Whenever leaving the house, failing to do so being liable to a $100 fine. The exceptions are:
- Being in a closed environment with those you live with, such as traveling in a car
- Exercising outdoors individually without social contact
Read more here.
Sunday, August 8
Fines for those not wearing masks
Not wearing face masks in public spaces is now a fineable offence, announced the Ministry of Health (MoH).
A $100 compound fine will be issued to those failing to comply under Section 62(A), Chapter 204 of the Infectious Diseases Act.
MoH YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Haji Jaafar announced the update at the press conference today after Brunei recorded seven community COVID-19 transmissions.
This marks the second successive day with local COVID-19 transmissions after more than a year-long absence of reported cases.
The minister clarified that the masks need to be worn by individuals whenever outside their homes. The exceptions for wearing masks are when parties that reside together are in closed quarters, such as traveling in a car or staying at home.
“If you’re ordering Dart (a driver) for example; the driver picks you up from home, so a mask must be worn – (since) you are from two different environments, inside closed quarters, that is a must. But if you’re driving alone then, no (it’s optional),” said the minister.
The minister added that the public can record visual evidence of those not wearing masks to be forwarded to MoH or the police, in response to a question from the media on individuals seeking entry to shops without wearing their masks.
Saturday, August 7
Restrictions reinstated for two weeks as Brunei records seven local coronavirus tranmissions
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has reinstated pandemic public health control measures for two weeks as Brunei recorded seven local COVID-19 transmissions earlier today for the first time in over a year.
MoH also announced for the first time that wearing face masks would be required at all times for everyone, especially public spaces both indoor and outdoor, including for those who have been vaccinated.
The restrictions mean the closure of recreational, entertainment and learning facilities and banning of dining in at eateries.
The full measures affecting businesses are:
- Closure of gyms, fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, leisure centres
- Closure of cinemas, internet cafes, children playgrounds and driving schools
- Closure of museums, libraries, galleries
- Closure of beauty salons and barbershops
- Restaurants and other food premises including stalls are only allowed to sell food for takeaway or delivery only; dine-in is not allowed
- Online learning to replace physical-based learning including schools and other educational providers
- Only essential workers are allowed to work in office; companies to implement business continuity plans and consider work-from-home arrangements
- Mass gatherings limited to 30 people; social gatherings/events must be postponed
- Face masks must be worn at all times; covering nose and mouth
- Retail businesses including markets are allowed to operate, must ensure physical distancing measures are implemented
- Businesses and offices must conduct temperature checks for individuals accessing
MoH Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar also said at the COVID-19 press conference that businesses and people should continue to use the BruHealth code diligently to help with contact tracing, and leave their Bluetooth on when in public areas.
The public is also advised not to horde or panic buy essentials, including face masks, to ensure the wider public continues to has access to these products.
Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah added that retailers should consider rationing or limiting the quantity of essentials sold in each transaction to individuals.
“The Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) has gone out and we find that people are buying in big bulk and so one suggestion is for retailers to not allow people to buy in big volume and for the public not to buy from resellers (who are buying from shops just to sell for additional profit),” said the minister.
The public can monitor the market prices of key goods on the DEPS’s Smart Consumer mobile application.