Cabinet ministers attending the COVID-19 press conference held at the ministry of health. Image: Azrina Zin

Brunei Darussalam has entered Phase 4 of the COVID-19 de-escalation measures, allowing a number of premises and business activities to operate at 100 per cent, announced the Minister of Health.

Speaking during a press conference, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar announced additional reductions for social and physical distancing measures that have been introduced, with previously prohibited activities now permitted.

According to the minister, these new activities are namely arcades as well as indoor and outdoor children’s playgrounds, which will officially enter Operation Readiness Level 1 on July 27.

He added that guidelines for mass gathering have also been further relaxed, now allowing a crowd of not more than 100 individuals.

Minister of Health YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Image: Azrina Zin

Elevation of activities from Operation Readiness Level 3 to Level 4, allowance for 100 per cent guest capacity

During the press conference, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham announced that a number of existing COVID-19 de-escalation measures will be elevated from Level 3 to Level 4, and these include;

  • Schools
  • Vocational, technical and higher education institutions
  • Tuition schools and music schools
  • Driving schools
  • Gyms and fitness centres
  • Indoor and outdoor sports facilities
  • Golf courses
  • Restaurants, cafes and food courts
  • Stalls and markets
  • Mosque and prayer halls
  • Other places of worship

The minister then explained that the progression of operational readiness for the first nine activities and premises mentioned above will commence on July 27 while mosque, prayer halls and other places of worship will begin Level 4 on August 3.

Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar during a press conference at the ministry of health. Image: Azrina Zin

According to the Minister of Home Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong, under Operation Readiness Level 4, food premises namely restaurants, cafes and food courts are allowed to operate at normal capacity or 100 per cent.

Buffets however are still prohibited, continued the minister, adding that the weekly Pasarneka Complex tamu and Tamu Tutong will also operate at 100 per cent guest capacity which will commence on Thursday, July 30.

The Minister of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) then announced two areas affected under the fourth phase of the de-escalation plan which includes driving schools under the Land Transport Department (LTD) and internet cafes nationwide.

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohammad Yusof said driving schools will move from Level 3 to Level 4 of the plan, effective Monday, July 27.

“Classes will resume as usual with normal capacity at one time following rules and regulations set by MTIC,” he said, adding that this includes sessions for the Highway Code Test and Driving Qualification Test.

Minister of Transport and Infocommunications, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib. Image: Azrina Zin

Schools return to full capacity

Under Level 4, schools nationwide will also increase their capacity and resume their academic sessions as per usual, and this includes all schools under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA).

Outside activities such as morning assemblies and sports activities however are still prohibited, said Education Minister, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman during the press conference.

Private tuition centres are now also allowed to operate at full capacity.

Meanwhile, the educational model for higher education institutions and institutes for technical and vocational education and training such as IBTE, are subject to each institution, having given the flexibility either to recommence face-to-face learning or continue with the existing E-learning initiatives.

“Work attachments and study visits within the sultanate are now allowed, subject to a Risk Assessment Report from the respective institute. Study abroad programs however are still prohibited in light of the travel ban that is still in place,” he added.

The minister went on to say that hostel facilities under MoE and MoRA can resume operations at full capacity, however hostel wardens are required to be vigilant in monitoring and updating the health of their occupants through the BruHealth application.

The minister then reminded students who wish to study abroad (new students) and students who wish to return to their country of study to follow the guidelines that have been provided by MoE by filling in these two forms;

  • Form A (COVID-19) Application to Return to Country of Study
  • Form B (COVID-19) Declaration Form: Return to Country of Study
Education Minister, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Hamzah. Image: Azrina Zin

Mosques increase capacity, allowed more activities

File photo of the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque at the capital. Image: The Bruneian

Under the latest de-escalation plan, takmir mosque group activities such as the recitation of Surah Yassin, Tahlil, Ratib al-Atas, lectures, tedarus Al-Quran and religious classes are allowed to take place with not more than 100 participants for every two-hour session effective Monday, August 3.

The Minister of Religious Affairs also announced that Al-Quran and Muqaddam classes that take place every Friday are now allowed to take place following the guidelines and regulations set by the Mosque Affairs Department and Ministry of Health.

“Meanwhile the capacity for Friday prayers will be back to normal and bookings for slots are no longer required. However, the use of facemasks is a must,” said Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awang Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awang Othman.

“Children ages 12 years old and above are now permitted to perform Friday prayers,” added the minister.

YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awang Badaruddin also announced that prayers for Hari Raya Aidiladha on Saturday, August 1 will take place at mosques and prayer halls nationwide.

“Congregants are encouraged to book their slots on the BruHealth app and adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Ministry of Health.”

Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhotmat Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awang Badaruddin. Image: Azrina Zin

Gyms, fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and golf courses

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Hj Abidin said that with the announcement made by MoH, the ministry had taken the steps to initiate Operational Readiness Level 4 for the four types of centres and facilities that will commence on Monday, July 27.

Under Operational Readiness Level 4, the capacity for the facilities have been updated, with new terms and conditions which are as follows;

  • All facilities mentioned are allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity at one time
  • Usage of these facilities is allowed for double or pair sports and non-contact artistic sports
  • There will no longer be any limitations on the period of use of the facilities
  • Contact sports and non-contact sports will be permitted for training only. Sparring matches, however, are not allowed
  • Team sports are now permitted provided not more than 10 individuals participate in one training session. Activities involving physical contact and equipment sharing are now allowed however only to a minimum
  • Contact sports are only allowed for training purposes, however, sparring activities are prohibited
  • Ten Pin Bowling is also allowed but only four players can play in each lane

Organised sports and competitions are still prohibited.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Image: The Bruneian

Elevation of activities from Operation Readiness Level 1 to Level 2 and from Level 2 to Level 3

Activities that will be escalated from Level 1 to Level 2 will commence on July 27 and they are as follows;

  • Cinemas
  • Swimming pools
  • Activity centres for the elderly
File photo of Trueliving Spa and Studio’s swimming pool for its women guests to chill and relax. Image: The Bruneian

Under Operational Readiness Level 2, the guest capacity for all the facilities mentioned will be upgraded from 30 to 60 per cent.

Cinemas will now allow visitors above the age 12, while food and beverages are now permitted within the viewing theater.

Though a distance of two seats must still be enforced among moviegoers while families are allowed to sit together.

Swimming pools will only be opened five days a week, and each individual will be allotted two hours per session.

File photo of one of the theaters featuring the new Dolby Atmos system at One Cineplex at One City Shopping Complex. Image: The Bruneian

The minister then added that only individuals who are above 12 years old are permitted to use the facilities.

Meanwhile, activity centres for the elderly will only be opened to low and medium risk senior citizens meaning those with controlled chronic diseases. Indoor and outdoor activities are now allowed.

Activities that will be escalated from Level 2 to Level 3, which will also commence on July 27 are as follows;

  • Special needs classes
  • Child care centres
  • Museums, galleries and libraries
  • Internet cafes
File photo of some of the art pieces on display in the gallery during the launch of the Islamic Caligraphy and Art Study Centre, Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Strategic Plan 2020-2025. Image: The Bruneian

Under Operation Readiness Level 3, special needs classes and child care centres can now run at 80 per cent capacity, with child care centres now open to children above the age of 6 months old and one-on-one activities are now permitted.

Special needs classes will now also allow outdoor and group activities however they are still only open to low and medium risk individuals.

For museums, galleries and libraries, crowds of not more than 70 individuals can enter with museums and galleries operating every day except on Monday and Thursday, while libraries will operate as usual, meaning every working day.

Internet cafes nationwide are now permitted to operate at 90 per cent capacity at one time according to the rules and regulations set by MoH.

File photo of a Primary School teacher having an online class with their students. Image: The Bruneian

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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