Brunei continues to enforce restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of Nov. 1, amid the continued easing of controls. Food establishments, markets, educational institutions, tuition centers, childcare centers, driving schools, music schools, sports facilities, galleries, libraries, museums, and elderly activity centers can continue to operate at full capacity with protocols, such as taking temperatures of visitors and sanitizing the premises regularly. Swimming pools can open at full capacity, as long as the number of users does not exceed 100. Arcades and playgrounds may operate at 80-percent capacity. Religious sites can continue to operate at full capacity for people above the age of 12. Activities outside classrooms, including morning assemblies and curriculum activities, remain suspended at educational institutions. Competitive events for select non-contact sports can take place with protocols, such as requiring organizers to obtain official permits and banning spectators. Mass gatherings can involve up to 350 people. Trade fairs can occur with protocols, such as requiring workers to wear masks, spacing booths at least three meters apart, and banning entry for people showing flu-like symptoms.
Business owners and customers have to download the BruHealth application. Violators could face a BND 10,000 (USD 7,100) fine and six months' imprisonment. Officials could reintroduce or expand restrictions in the coming weeks if COVID-19 activity increases in-country.
Most foreign nationals, including long-term pass holders, remain banned from entering or transiting Brunei. Exemptions include foreigners whose work relates to matters of national interest, such as the oil and gas sector and the transport of essential goods. Existing travel, student, and dependent visas remain suspended, with limited exceptions. People who can enter Brunei must test for COVID-19 before traveling and upon arrival. Arrivals must quarantine between 2-14 days at government-designated facilities, depending on the risk level of the country of departure. Travelers can leave the isolation sites upon testing negative for COVID-19. Authorities will consider appeals from foreigners in special situations, such as studying on scholarships or undergoing medical treatment in Brunei, to enter the country. Foreigners permitted entry in such cases must obtain a Bruneian citizen or entity as a guarantor.
Foreigners with essential or business needs can transit through Brunei by land, with protocols in place. Measures include limiting the travel duration, such as one hour for those going from Labu to Ujong Jalan in eastern Brunei or three hours for travelers from Kuala Lurah to Sungai Tujoh in western Brunei. Foreigners, including transit passengers and commercial vehicle operators, must provide results of a negative COVID-19 swab test taken within seven days before arrival in Brunei. Registered persons must pay entry/exit fees of BND 3 (USD 2.2) for each one-way trip across land borders; exempted travelers include children below the age of two years, diplomats and families, and those with emergency passes or on official duty. Regular travelers - with proof of at least 15 monthly round trips to Brunei - may apply online for the Frequent Commuters Pass. Foreign-registered vehicles must also register with the Land Department and obtain a paid vehicle pass sticker.
Brunei allows travel for business and official purposes with Singapore in a so-called Reciprocal Green Lane scheme. For travelers from Singapore, a Bruneian host company or government agency must apply for the employee's travel pass and controlled itinerary for the first 14 days in Brunei. The travelers must have remained in Singapore for 14 days before travel, obtain a visa if applicable, purchase a return flight ticket, test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before departure, and download the BruHealth contact tracing application. Upon arrival, the employees must test for COVID-19, remain in their pre-approved accommodation place until the test returns negative, and adhere to a controlled itinerary.
Local nationals, permanent residents, and foreigners holding Bruneian identification cards remain barred from leaving the country. Only people departing to seek medical treatment or resume studies overseas can leave Brunei after obtaining approval from the Prime Minister's Office. Outbound local citizens and permanent residents who require COVID-19 tests have to pay BND 100 (USD 72), while outbound foreign nationals will have to pay BND 200 (USD 144); authorities have exempted students, government employees on official duty, and people with permission from the Ministry of Health.
Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Follow all official instructions. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers. Plan for possible ground shipping and travel delays; seek alternative routes and shipping methods for time-sensitive cargo.
Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.