(L-R) Minister of Home Affairs, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr.) Haji Awang Abu Bakar Haji Apong, Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar and Minister of Religious Affairs, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Awang Badaruddin during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Image: Rafidah Hamit

The government is welcoming building, hotel, apartment and hostel owners to offer up their facilities as self-isolation centres, as the sultanate continues to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, which has risen to 91.

This was revealed during a press conference earlier this afternoon by Minister of Health, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar.

Addressing questions from the media, the health minister said that the ministry has received about 2,000 students since the mandatory self-isolation directive for all passengers arriving through the Brunei International Airport was initiated on March 20.

A student arrives at Brunei International Airport. Image: Fazizul Haqimie.

“We all understand that (this is an) emergency situation of infection control, it is unprecedented (for our country) and we would never have expected it to be this huge of a scale,” he said.

He continued that the ministry is facing issues in regard to the number of available accommodations for the affected individuals, urging more accommodation owners to offer up their facilities to assist the government’s efforts in controlling the COVID-19 outbreak.

YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham went on to say that the ministry is expecting some 800 students in the next couple of days, including some local residents who have been travelling abroad.

Minister of Health, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar. Image: Rafidah Hamit

In order to curb the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, all individuals currently undergoing self-isolation at the appointed centres and their residences will be given the COVID-19 laboratory test, said the minister.

“Priority will be given to certain individuals however, for example, those that have to share rooms at the appointed self-isolation centres,” he added.

To register their accommodations, building, hotel, apartment, and hostel owners can contact the National Disaster Management Centre at 7190521.

Passengers and students on their way to the isolation centres around the country. Image: Fazizul Haqimie

During the press conference, the health minister also announced three new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the national tally of COVID-19 infections to 91 cases.

Case details
Case 89 is aged 51 years old and is a work contact of case 69. Case 89 began experiencing symptoms (fever and cough) on March 16.

Case 90 is aged 40 years old and is also a work contact of case 69. Case 90 began experiencing signs of fever and cough on March 14.

Case 91 is aged 36 years old and had only returned to the sultanate on March 20 via Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI796 (seat 32A) after a holiday in Surabaya, Indonesia with family and friends. Case 91 began developing symptoms (fever, headaches, cough and flu) on March 21.

As of now, 89 cases are being treated at the National Isolation Centre.

One case is in critical condition requiring the aid of a ventilator while three more cases require careful monitoring.

As of today, 1,634 individuals are undergoing quarantine in accordance with the Infectious Diseases Act (Chapter 204) and 282 individuals have completed their quarantine. Since early January, 3,191 laboratory tests for COVID-19 have been conducted.

Image: Minstry of Health

For further information and latest developments, visit MoH’s website at www.moh.gov.bn or call its 24-hour Health Advice Line 148.

Alternatively, members of the public can also get the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Brunei through the GOV.BN Official channel on Telegram at: https://t.me/govbnofficial.

Extended closure of mosques and prayer halls

During the press conference, Minister of Religious Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Othman also announced the extended closure of mosques and prayers halls across the sultanate.

The closure, which was slated to end yesterday will be extended for another week, effective March 24 until March 30, said the minister.

Minister of Religious Affairs, YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Awang Badaruddin . Image: Rafidah Hamit

“Based on advice and information provided by MoH, the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) believes that the current COVID-19 outbreak affecting our nation is dangerous, life-threatening and is affecting our well-being as a community,” he said.

“MUIB asserts that it is the obligation of all parties in the country to continue the measures that have been put into place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he added.

Call to prayers will continue to be broadcasted in all mosques and prayer halls, continued the minister, adding that mosque officials will be performing their duties as usual.

“An assessment will be done prior to lifting the closure and sanitizing operations will be continued throughout this extended period,” he added.

A view of the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque at the capital. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN