Construction workers seen working at a site in the capital. Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) will be conducting random COVID-19 laboratory tests for migrant workers working in the sultanate, as part of the government’s effort in monitoring the spread of coronavirus in the country.

This was mentioned by Health Minister Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar during a press conference today, who also cited COVID-19 case statistics in the sultanate which showed that 25 out of the 135 cases detected or 18.5 per cent were foreigners.

“Selected employers will be contacted during bring the workers to undergo the COVID-19 laboratory test for free. Cooperation from these employers is very much needed to help the government curb the spread of the disease,” he explained.

According to the minister, MoH will be conducting a discussion with the Labour Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs, on how best to carry out the procedure.

“The priority will go to migrant workers who have entered the country before the travel ban was imposed for which there are about a few thousands… only then will the random sampling be extended to other sectors,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham.

Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Sharing the session was the Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong who addressed concerns raised by members of the public in connection with the spread of the COVID-19 virus linked to the presence of Bangladeshi workers in the country.

The concerns were based on an online article circulated in Bangladesh dated April 6 where it was mentioned that the sultanate had 25,000 Bangladeshi workers, the majority of which were alleged to be undocumented workers and that seven of them were infected.

“In relation to this, based on information provided by MoH, there are only two Bangladeshi workers that have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in the country,” he said.

“The cost of treatment, including the COVID-19 laboratory test has been entirely borne by the government. Both individuals have been allowed to return to their employers after undergoing treatment at the National Isolation Centre,” he added.

Both individuals, explained the minister, entered the country legally, after undergoing screening and evaluation processes from the relevant agencies in Brueni as well as Bangladesh.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar then proceeded to share statistics from last year’s Labour Census which was published by the Labour Department.

Citing the statistics, he pointed out that there are about 12,841 migrant workers from Bangladesh in the sultanate, and 9,400 or 73 per cent are employed in the construction sector.

A foreign national seen at work on a construction site in the capital. Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Meanwhile, statistics by the Immigration and National Registration Department showed that only 13 undocumented migrants were found between 2019 and March of this year.

Twelve of the undocumented migrants were Malaysian nationals and one was from Indonesia.

During the same time period, the minister added, 110 foreign workers with work passes were found to be in violation of their terms of employment.

These violations include “not being employed under the original employer” and “conducting business and services” outside of their contract.

Out of the figure, 68 are Bangladeshi nationals, 22 are Indian nationals and 13 are Indonesian nationals. 

The offenders were charged with compound fines and deported from the sultanate, with their names included in the list of individuals barred from entering Brunei.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar also shared that 18 warnings have already been issued to employers for not preparing conducing housing for their employees, all the while urging employers to always observe the welfare of their employees.

“To this end, the cooperation of employers is also needed by reporting the health status of their employees who show signs of infection, and to emphasize the need to adhere to the directives issued by MoH,” he concluded.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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