The government has further expanded the COVID-19 measures, introducing new activities and premises that were previously not permitted, including the reopening of cinemas, swimming pools as well as open-air markets across the sultanate, announced the minister of health.
Speaking during a press conference, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar also announced a number of additional reductions for the social and physical distancing measures that have been implemented.
This is following the consent of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, after taking into consideration the fact that the COVID-19 situation in the country is currently under control.
Expanded de-escalation measures; cinemas, swimming pools and mass gatherings
Commencing July 6, following the additional de-escalation measures announced by the health ministry (MoH), cinemas and swimming pools will now be allowed to operate and relaxed measures have also been implemented for mass gatherings.
According to YB Dr Hj Md Isham, mass gatherings will now be allowed however limited to a crowd of not more than 50 people.
In regards to the reopening of the nation’s cinemas, Minister of Home Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong was on hand to provide information on the terms of their reopening, which will be running at an Operational Level 1.
Cinemas will only be allowed to operate at 30 per cent capacity, while consistently practising that social and physical distancing measures such as ensuring that there are two empty seats in between every cinema goer.
“Children under 15 years old are not permitted to enter the cinema,” the minister explained.
Cinemas are required to register for the BruHealth QR code, display them at the entrances of their premises as well as to perform body temperature checks for all cinema goers entering the premises.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar also told cinema owners to ensure that ample time is given in between every showing to allow for cinemas to be fully sanitised, while cinema workers were advised to always wear masks while on duty.
“Cinemas are also required to display a notice stating the maximum capacity of the premise in the appropriate location,” he added.
Swimming pools will also run at 30 per cent capacity, said Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Hj Abidin.
Like cinemas, swimming pools will only be opened to individuals above the age of 15 years old.
“Swimming pools will be opened three days a week, with one hour allotted for each individual,” the minister said.
“Swimming pools under the purview of the ministry will be opened on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays while the operating hours of private owned swimming pools are subject to their respective owners,” he explained.
Elevation of activities from Operation Readiness Level 1 to Level 2 and from Level 2 to Level 3
During the press conference, YB Dato Hj Md Isham also announced that a number of existing COVID-19 de-escalation measures will be elevated from Level 2 to Level 3, and these include;
- Vocational, technical and higher education institutions
- Tuition schools and music schools
- Mosque, surau and musallas
- Other places of worship
- Driving schools
- Gyms and fitness centres
- Indoor and outdoor sports facilities
- Golf courses
- Restaurants, cafes and food courts
- Stalls and markets
The minister then explained that progression of operational readiness for the first three activities and premises mentioned above will commence on July 4 while the remaining will commence on July 6.
“Arcade and indoor playground are not allowed to open until a later date,” the health minister added.
Gyms, fitness centres, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and golf courses
MCYS Minister, YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said that with the announcement made by MoH, the ministry had taken the steps to initiate Operational Readiness Level 3 for the four types of centres and facilities that will commence on Monday.
Under Operational Readiness Level 3 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 90 per cent capacity at one time.
- Facilities will now be opened for all visitors.
- Sessions are increased to a maximum of two hours per person every day.
- Locker rooms and showers can be used.
- Contact sports and non-contact sports will be permitted for training only. Sparring matches, however, are not allowed.
- Team sports will also be permitted for the training, however, each team will be limited to five individuals only. Sports that involve in physical contact, however, will not be allowed.
- Bowling centres can now allow two players in one lane, with sessions upgraded to two hours per player per day. House shoes and house balls will now be permitted.
Childcare centres, special needs centres, museums, galleries and libraries
Under Operational Readiness Level 2, the guest capacity for all the facilities mentioned will be upgraded from 30 to 60 per cent.
Childcare centres will only be opened for children that are above the age of one and will be limited to one-on-one activity.
“Permission to operate at Operational Readiness Level 2 for these centres is however subject to the approval of the ministry,” said YB Dato Hj Aminuddin.
For special needs centre, on the other hand, the minister explained that they will only be opened to low-risk and medium-risk special needs individuals, and the centres’ activities will be limited to indoor activities.
“Low-risk special needs individuals are those without chronic illness and are capable of taking care of themselves and are able to communicate,” he said.
“Medium-risk individuals are those who are also without chronic illness but who need assistance in self-management and have difficulty in communication,” he explained further.
Meanwhile for museums, galleries and libraries, besides operating at 60 per cent and allowing crowds of not more than 50, these premises will be open for five days a week for five hours a day from Tuesday to Thursday and from Saturday to Sunday.
Food premises, open-air stalls and weekly tamus
During the press conference, Home Affairs Minister also announced that the weekly tamus under the Municipal Departments of Tutong, Seria and Kuala Belait, which were previously closed, will now be opened.
Opening on July 9, Tamu Tutong will run at 50 per cent vendor capacity with vendors being divided into groups, operating alternatively from week to week. Scheduling will be conducted by the Tutong Municipal Department.
Meanwhile, the Tamu Seria located at the car park of Pasaraneka Seria and Tamu Kuala Belait located at the car park of Tamuneka Kuala Belait will be operated at a new location; the Pasarneka Seria Building at Jalan Lorong 3 Selatan, Seria.
Vendors will also be divided into groups and operate alternately following a schedule set by the Municipal Department of Seria and Kuala Belait.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar also announced that food premises providing dine-in services will operate at 80 per cent guest capacity while open-air stalls can operate at 100 per cent guest capacity.
Religious schools and mosque operations
The Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awang Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awang Othman announced that two sectors under the ministry will be affected in the third level of the de-escalation measures.
This includes religious and Arabic schools and the Institut Tahfiz Al-Qur’an Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah as well as mosques and prayer halls nationwide.
On July 5, hostels will start to open for inter-district students and those who are eligible and meet the requirements according to guidelines from the Ministry of Health.
“In addition, schools will be provided a health package that includes temperature screening tools, face masks, and hand sanitisers in support of the health ministry’s recommendations and guidelines,” said the minister.
YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awang Badaruddin added that the Ministry of Religious Affairs will also provide fabric face masks to teaching staff and students in need.
Meanwhile under mosque operations, starting July 6, takmir mosque groups activities are permitted which include the recitation of Surah Yaasin, Tahlil, Ratib al-Atas, lectures, tedarus Al-Quran and religious classes.
“These activities can take place with not more than 50 participants for every session or in one hour,” said the minister.
“Al-Quran and Muqaddam classes are not allowed to take place but InsyaAllah will be included in the next level.”
Schools increasing capacity
Under level three, schools nationwide will increase its capacity to include students of Years 7, 9 and 10 in the general stream and Year 12 in sixth form centres under the Ministry of Education, private institutions and Arabic schools under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Minister of Education Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Haji Hamzah Haji Sulaiman said these new measures will take place from July 4 adding that dates for international schools are subject to the respective institutions.
“The implementation of teaching and learning under level 3 is maintained with the combination of face-to-face and online sessions in accordance with the school’s suitability and capacity.”
He added that schools are advised to refer to the modalities shared by the ministry for the implementation of these rules.
“A total of 90,486 students are expected to return to school on July 4, an increase of 51.2 per cent from the second level.”
“With more and more students returning, the ministry is still emphasising the social and hygiene aspects as well as school premises,” he added.
Schools are required to apply the guidelines, hygiene and precautionary measures that have been provided to ensure the well-being of students and staff.
He assured that the education and religious affairs ministries will ensure schools will continue to implement standard operating procedures (SOP) which include scanning of QR codes and daily temperature checks for students, staff and individuals who are visiting.
Activities outside the classroom which include morning assemblies, sports and co-curricular activities are not permitted until a later date.
“For tuitions schools, the capacity is increased to not more than 10 students per study session,” said YB Dato Haji Hamzah.
“Continuous temperature checks, scanning of QR codes must take place regularly and the use of facemasks are encouraged in tuition schools,” he added.
No new cases of the COVID-19 virus were reported in the sultanate for 55 consecutive days, leading the national tally to remain at 141 cases.
There were also no new recoveries making the total number of cases that have recovered from the coronavirus to stand still at 138 individuals.
Meanwhile, 413 individuals are currently undergoing mandatory self-isolation at the monitoring centres provided by the government, who have just arrived in the country after travelling abroad.
At present, a total of 2,718 individuals have completed their mandatory self-isolation at the monitoring centres.
In the past 24 hours, a total of 294 samples have been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, bringing the total number of laboratory tests conducted since January 2020 to 29,841 tests.
For further information and the latest development, visit MoH’s website www.moh.gov.bn, or by contacting the Health Advice Line 148 or through the BruHealth App or healthinfo.gov.bn.
Alternatively, members of the public can also get the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Brunei through the official GOV.BN channel on Telegram at https://t.me/govbnofficial.
Wardi Wasil and Rafidah Hamit
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN