Drive towards 2022 in style
A Bruneian at heart
Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam Berhad (“BIBD”) announced the appointment of Hajah Noraini binti Haji Sulaiman as the Acting Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of BIBD, effective 1 December 2021. Hajah Noraini, currently the Deputy Managing Director I, has been in the financial industry since 1997, holding various posts and directorships within the BIBD Group and its affiliate company. She is also a board member of various organisations.
Mr. Mubashar Khokhar who is on secondment term from Fajr Capital Limited (“Fajr”), Dubai since 2015 will continue as Managing Director and CEO until 30 November 2021. His stewardship and Fajr’s contribution as BIBD’s transformation partner, had facilitated the BIBD’s strategic transformation into the largest and strongest bank in Brunei, producing stellar performance, year on year, with strong profitable growth.
BIBD is now Brunei’s largest Islamic financial institution, ranked the Safest Bank and the Strongest Bank by reputable publishers such as the Global Finance and The Asian Banker respectively. BIBD’s selection as the Bank of the Year by the gold standard of accolades, The Banker magazine, truly epitomises BIBD’s transformational journey into becoming a world-class Islamic financial institution.
YM Hajah Noraini was previously the Acting Managing Director of Syarikat Takaful Brunei Darussalam, on secondment from BIBD. She was also the Chief Financial Officer for Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, and has held other accounting and financial roles in various Bruneian companies such as Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd. Currently, she is the director for BIBD At- Tamwil Berhad, BIBD Securities, BIBD Management Services, Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre and Jerudong Park Medical Centre. She was also a director in Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) and the Chairman for the TAP Audit Committee. She is a member of the Brunei Darussalam Accounting Standards Council.
Hajah Noraini binti Haji Sulaiman is the first local female lead role in BIBD which also holds the biggest share mark in the banking sector. She has been holding her Deputy Managing Director role for more than 7 years and she has been very active ever since the incorporation of BIBD back in 2005.
One of her earlier posts in BIBD was Corporate Secretary of BIBD. Later on, she held post as the Chief Financial Officer of BIBD before being promoted as Deputy Managing Director I and CEO of BIBD.
I wish Hajah Noraini all the best in her role as the Acting Managing Director and CEO of BIBD. She is definitely a Bruneian at heart. Congratulations.
Transition Phase activated
The anticipation is over!!! Just a week or so to see if our exam (Transition Phase) is a success or do we need to scale down on opening up. Definitely much different from the first wave when we re-opened then. The feelings are still mixed. But sooner or later, we will have to face the music and trust the process that the Brunei Government is doing their best they can for the country with a balanced act. We simply cannot just stay still in the pandemic/recovery phase for months and months as this alone will hurt Brunei in a longer run.
My DMs are suddenly on the rise, thinking I have reached a plateau for those seeking for responses. I was wrong. The transition phase is perhaps the “game changer” in our pandemic journey. To me, this could be the deal breaker if Brunei is able to handle the next stage and of course, this boils down to the cooperation from the people.
If I were to rewind back, the second wave felt like a huge test. It seemed like a long time ago even though it was just a matter of three months. Even with words of wisdom from our leaders in Brunei, it was not enough to slow down the infection rate. Clusters became a new trend especially home clusters. The Ministers had enough and implemented “Operasi Pulih”, two months after the second wave.
So with the re-opening of the economy, can we trust the people around us to adhere to the Standard of Procedures (SOPs)? Will we be more discipline than ever before? This, I believe, will be a huge test for Brunei after what we have learnt from the second wave. It’s never easy to change a mindset or habits but we just have to constantly remind people around us not to be “too complacent”.
If you ask me personally, I would practice restrain on certain things such as dining out or have social gatherings. Even with my favourite past time – catching movies – I won’t be rushing myself, playing catch up with the awesome line-up of movies at the cinemas. The only thing I would actually do is getting back to my routine which is tennis since it’s outdoor and not being in a confined space. Furthermore, tennis is a non-contact sport to begin with.
So here are some of the things we have learnt for the upcoming Transition Phase
- Businesses such as restaurants, cafes, gyms, salons to implement Business Continuity Plan, conducting Anti-Gen Rapid Test every two weeks and to practice controlled capacity (50%). Only those who are fully vaccinated (2 doses) will be able to enter.
- Restaurants can accept diners up to 50% of patronage. Maintained social distance gap of 1.5 metres. I believe if it’s from the same address then no social distancing required. However, let me double confirm on this matter. No buffet or dome setting allowed during your patronage.
- Green and yellow codes on your BruHealth app will be allowed to enter public places
- Only double vaccination individuals will be allowed to enter public places
- No need masks while eating/drinking in cafes/restaurants and no buffets allowed.
- Limitation of people in a premise – 50% or 200 pax whichever is lesser
- Staying home period will be from 10pm to 4am. We have an extra two hours in the evening during the Transition Phase. This will be from 19th November to 30th November.
- Weddings can be held at home from 10 pax to 30 pax, depending on the size of your house. No buffet to be served for sure. Suggest for packed food catering.
- For the Masjids/Suraus, only those 18 and above are allowed to enter. Need BruHealth and double vaccination. No need for identification but do make sure Wudhu from home. Cleaning and sanitizing will be done by every “waktu fardhu”. You are required to bring your own prayer mats. The quotas for masjid and suraus will be similar to that of the first wave.
- Daycare center are not allowed to be operating yet even during the Transition Phase. It is set to open during “Endemic Phase”, estimated sometime in December. However, the guidelines have already been given.
- Sports will be allowed but only for training purposes. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports will be handling out the guidelines for respective sports and leisure centres.
- There is no specific or indication on the numbers when the hospitalization rate hits a warning sign for the health care system.
- Unvaccinated civil servants will work from home during the Transition Phase. It’s still being discussed with these individuals will have to borne the usage of the ART kits if they return back to work in their unvaccinated condition.
- There are discussions where Quarantine Order will be revised for the Transition Phase. There is a possibility that the QO won’t be longer than the usual (14 days).
- Governmental dental services might not be in operation just yet as some of the government dentists are still helping out at the frontline.
- Temporary suspension on cross-border activities has been extended to 30th November except for those who have been granted approval from the Brunei Government.
- Vaccination hours have changed from 8am to 5pm at the Indoor Stadium Vaccination Centre.
- Construction workers with single dose of vaccine can still work in isolation such as road works or outside works. The same applies to those handling landscaping jobs. Those with one dose of vaccine are not allowed to conduct renovations at residences.
- Those caught outside the hours of Ops Peralihan will pay a fine of BND 500.
- Owners or Manager of the Premise or Event Organizer, should they exceed the human capacity of the given space, they will pay a fine of BND 5,000.
- Premises that allowed any individual to enter with only one vaccine then the owner or the manager of the space or the event organizer will have to pay a fine of BND 2,000.
- Those who haven’t completed their vaccination will pay BND 100 should they enter any premises.
- Employees or workers who are caught not wearing their masks will be fined BND 100.
The list will just get longer and longer but if you want to study more in depth, you can check out JPM’s website for updates and I am pretty sure it will be refined from time to time for the convenience and safety of the public.
The Sultanate of Oman celebrates its 51st National Day
Message from His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hashil Al Maskari, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Brunei Darussalam.
On the 18th of November, the Sultanate of Oman marks its 51st National Day anniversary. With firm resolve, Omani citizens continue to make more achievements under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman who vowed to upgrade the march of nation building and enhance the pace of progress, striking a high note in Omani people’s enthusiasm for an ambitious renaissance that covers all spheres of life.
At the onset of the message on the auspicious occasion of the 51st anniversary of the national day of the Sultanate of Oman, I am honored to seize this opportunity to congratulate His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on Brunei Darussalam’s successful ASEAN Chairmanship for the current year, in these challenging times, Brunei continued to admirably play an important role as the ASEAN Chair in helping the region bounce back from the global pandemic and deal with other challenges facing ASEAN.
Furthermore, after registering its first locally transmitted covid-19 case in over a year, I am pleased to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s approach in containing the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak. Owing to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s wise leadership, we are confident that Brunei will overcome this challenge.
Furthermore, thanks to the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam the vaccination drive has gained momentum and the country is destined to achieve a level which is needed to achieve herd immunity in the nearest future.
Moreover, I would also like to take this opportunity to laude Bruneians and foreign nationals residing in Brunei Darussalam for supporting the measures implemented by the Bruneian authority and for acting responsibly to stem the spreading of the virus. My sincerest gratitude goes to the competent medical professionals, doctors and nurses, law enforcement and border guards and others who are working tirelessly around the clock for the well-being and safety of everyone in this country.
Oman & Brunei: 37 years of outstanding bilateral relation:
This year marks the 37h anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam. The two sultanates established diplomatic ties on 24th March 1984 and, ever since, the bilateral relations have always enjoyed stable, healthy and steady development, and has attained remarkable achievements.
This process was greatly assisted by the official state visits paid by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassnal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the Sultanate of Oman on three separate occasions. The first being in the 1984, the second taking place in 1985, and the third and the most recent visit in 2009. In addition, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, visited Oman in February 2014.
Furthermore, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman, visited Brunei Darussalam in March 2014, in his capacity as Minister of Heritage and Culture during the reign of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur. These royal visits strengthened the relationship between the two brotherly countries even further.
Since establishing diplomatic relations, the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam have concluded numerous agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in different fields of cooperation.
Bilateral relations are discussed and reviewed on regular basis by the Foreign Ministry of the Sultanate of Oman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam through the “Bilateral Consultative Meeting”; mechanism that was established in 1992 to strengthen bilateral relations. So, far twenty meetings have taken place, alternating between the two capitals of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.
Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic our two brotherly countries bilateral relations continued to grow from strength to strength. On 11th January 2021, the Foreign Ministries of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam held the 20th Bilateral Consultative Meeting (20th BCM), via video-conferencing.
During the 20th BCM, the two sides acknowledged and agreed to further strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam in various areas, including trade and investment, energy, agriculture and fisheries, higher education, tourism, health, defense, and people-to-people exchanges.
Cultural cooperation is one of the strong dimensions of Oman-Brunei bilateral relations. Oman has participated on regular basis in Brunei international book fairs. Brunei also took part in Muscat book fairs during the past few years.
In this regard it worth mentioning that, on the year 2019, the Sultanate of Oman was privileged to be the first country ever to be invited as a country of honor at Brunei Book Fair, since it was inaugurated almost two decades ago.
Additionally, in line with the Embassy’s efforts to make the most of the Bruneians admiration for Arabic language, a fifth batch consisting of four teachers from the Ministry of Religious Affairs studied Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers, for duration of eight weeks during the year 2019, on a partial scholarship from the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.
The first four batches consisted of students from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB).
So far, a total of twenty-four participants from Brunei had benefited from this program. Currently arrangements are underway for the sixth batch of Bruneian students to study Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers during the course of next year.
Furthermore, recently the Ministry of Education of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs established an impressive cooperation in the field of Arabic language teaching and learning, that has resulted in several promising initiatives that further strengthened the teaching and learning of Arabic language in Brunei Darussalam.
The Embassy has also emphasized promoting people-to-people exchanges between Brunei and Oman. As part of this effort, six Omani publications corners were officially launched at the library of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in February 2016 and at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD)’s library in May 2017, at the Library of the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) on 25th July 2018, at the library of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) on October 2019 and the library of Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Défense Academy on October 2020, with the latest Omani publications corner launched at the Library of the Language and Literature Bureau on 27th July 2021. Thus, the total number of Omani publications contained in these six corners are more than two-thousands (2,000) publications.
Additionally, as part of the Embassy’s effort to foster ties with the People of Brunei, within the framework of public diplomacy, which is considered an effective tool to help formulate people’s perception of each other’s countries and cultures.
The Embassy continued its annual practice of inviting batches of students from local public schools to visit the Embassy’s premise. During these visits I personally presented on aspects of Oman’s cultural and tourism appeal such as its geographic location, natural beauty and diverse landscapes, in addition to its culture and heritage. My presentation also explored some of the similarities between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam including the form of governance practiced in both countries, and efforts to modernize while maintaining distinct cultural identities, as well as the strong bonds of friendship forged through shared historical, cultural and social ties between the two countries and their peoples.
Moreover, our two brotherly countries enjoy productive cooperation in the field of education; the Sultanate of Oman continued to offer Bruneian students’ scholarships under the Omani program for Cultural and Information cooperation. At the same time, we are also grateful that over the past years the government of Brunei Darussalam has accepted many Omani students to pursue their studies in various local universities and institutions of higher learning on Brunei government scholarship.
Speaking of students’ exchange, several Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University and University of Nizwa studied in UBD for one academic semester, during the past few years.
Oman and Brunei also enjoy promising cooperation in the field of sports, only last April 2021, The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oman Football Association. The MOU entailed cooperation in vast areas including conducting more exchanges between the two Football Associations as well as the hosting of friendly matches.
Moreover, in a move that took trade and investment cooperation between the two sultanates to a higher level, Brunei inked a deal with Oman in April 2009, to establish a US$100 million investment fund, shared between the two sultanates and based in the Omani capital of Muscat. This deal resulted in the unveiling of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC).
OBIC invests in private equity of high-growing sectors through acquisition, or by investing in existing companies or starting new projects.
OBIC continued to make the most of business opportunities available in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam local markets, in order to further boost the two countries economic development and contribute to their economic diversification plans.
OBIC has invested in many projects in the Sultanate of Oman since its establishment 12 years ago. Among the most important of these projects are Kempinski Hotel, located Al Mouj-Muscat; the European Hospital being built in Al Ghubra; and the desalination plant in Sohar.
On the year 2019, OBIC has acquired (50 per cent) share of Golden Corporation Sdn Bhd (GC), a company that specializes in fish farming, in addition to providing high-quality seafood products, based in Brunei Darussalam. This was OBIC first investment in Brunei.
Furthermore, on 9th December 2019, Oman Investment Authority (OIA) of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) agreed to increase the capital of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC) by another USD 100 million. Thus, bringing the total capital of the company to USD 200 million.
Additionally, both countries have identified and explored over the years during the Bilateral Consultative Meetings between the Sultanate of Oman Foreign Ministry and Brunei Darussalam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a number of new investment opportunities in various industries including the upstream and downstream, oil and gas sectors, halal food, banking and finance, agriculture and fisheries. With the hope that these investments won’t be limited to either Oman or Brunei, but could also be extended to joint investment in third countries.
Moreover, the longstanding shared values and similar energy landscapes of Brunei Darussalam and the Sultanate of Oman have been key in nurturing close ties between the two countries, with the Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar – first held in 2014 in Brunei and the second held in Muscat, Oman in 2016 and third taking place in Brunei 2019– symbolizing this partnership. We are hopeful that the fourth session of the aforementioned seminar will take place next year 2022, at Muscat.
The biennial seminar, hosted alternately between Brunei and Oman, was established as a platform to share best practices in areas of mutual interest between both countries and to foster joint opportunities, as well as to enhance understanding of the business and investment environments in both countries, especially in industry sectors.
Cooperation in the field of energy and related fields further fortified with the exchange of professionals through the staff cross-posting between Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oman Liquefied Natural Gas (Oman LNG), an arrangement which has been ongoing for several years.
Défense cooperation is another dimension of Brunei-Oman bilateral relations that has also grown steadily over the past years, with both countries armed forces regularly participating in command and staff courses and other military events held in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam.
With reference to what I have highlighted earlier it’s evident that relations between the two Sultanates have extended beyond the political spheres to include other important areas of cooperation and we firmly believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, more positive results will be yielded in the Sultanate of Oman-Brunei Darussalam excellent and mutual beneficial cooperation.
Therefore, based on these cooperative relations shaped by economic necessity and investment opportunities and incentives, there is ample reason to expect our two countries partnership to reach new heights and cover more sectors including industries, tourism, logistics, fisheries, as well as, technology, health care, water, environment, and renewable energy.
Furthermore, we hope that the friendship and cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam will grow from strength to strength and we are confident that with the outstanding leadership of their Majesties Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, the bonds of friendship between Oman and Brunei will be further cemented in the years ahead.
I would therefore like to express my thanks and appreciation to the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for their kindness, generosity support and cooperation in promoting the good relations between our friendly countries.
I am, thus confident that our two friendly countries relations in the coming years will witness further enhancement of closer bonds of friendship and partnership. Ultimately, my heartfelt wishes to Brunei Darussalam to further success, progress, peace and for the Oman-Brunei relation further development and prosperity.
Celebrating Renewed Renaissance, Setting Further Milestones:
It is with great pride, immense happiness, deep love and gratitude to the Builder of Modern Oman, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur and His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, that Omani people celebrate the 51st National Day on the 18th of November 2021.
The achievements brought about over the past 51 years can be seen in all fields and on every yard of the Sultanate of Oman’s territory. The late His Majesty established the pillars of a modern state on solid grounds of justice, equality, responsible citizenship and rule of the law as part of His Majesty’s keenness on safeguarding the unity of the nation and the solidarity of citizens in every part of the country.
The main focus of the Sultanate of Oman’s Renaissance has been on the creation of a modern nation based upon a system of laws and institutions that reflect the development of its society and state. The Basic Law of the State embodies all aspects and helped establish ‘the state of institutions and rule of law’ and paved the way for wide-scale cooperation between executive and legislative institutions within a framework of equality, in earnest quest to facilitate citizens’ access to justice.
Oman National Day is an occasion in which citizens exhibit their joy over the achievements made, as well as their love and gratitude to their benevolent leader.
The celebration comes at a time the Sultanate of Oman is making progress in every field, inspired by the directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, who continued charting the roadmap of the renaissance. That’s how modern Oman has emerged as a country admired by the whole world, because of its civilized contribution to human experience and its dignified presence in regional and international arenas.
Royal directives to tackle coronavirus pandemic:
To contain coronavirus (Covid-19) that wreaked havoc in countries of the world, the Sultanate of Oman formed a Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The Supreme Committee has been taking ‘moderate’ decisions and precautionary measures that ensure the safety of citizens and residents, while at the same time catering to social and economic implications on this benign land.
The Supreme Committee is responsible for cooperation with the departments concerned and regulating social response. It worked for the procurement of internationally approved vaccines and oversaw the implementation of a national immunization campaign. This was commended by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik when he chaired the Supreme Committee’s meeting on 18 August 2021. His Majesty said that, “This improvement could not have happened had it not been for the appropriate decisions taken and the efforts exerted by the departments concerned in the Sultanate of Oman, albeit the health sector.” His Majesty the Sultan of Oman lauded the “high sense of responsibility shouldered by all members of society through abidance with the decisions and the measures set by the authorities concerned to safeguard public health—individuals and society at large”.
The decisions resulted in the improvement of Covid-19 indicators in the Sultanate of Oman, which, the reports said, registered great decline in mortality, infection and hospitalization rates, while recovery from the disease reached 98.5%.
Meanwhile, the government accorded special attention to the ensuing economic impacts of Covid-19. The decisions, which took into account the fallouts of the pandemic on establishments and companies, included exemption from fines of some services. Special exemptions were sanctioned to small and medium enterprises and holders of Riyada Card for Entrepreneurs. This is in addition to a package of incentives for borrowers, individuals, banking institutions, financing and leasing firms.
Mercedes-Benz Ambulance Handover
On 20 October 2021, Brunei LNG Sendirian Berhad (Brunei LNG) took delivery of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Ambulance at the Mercedes-Benz Autohaus. Present at the event to officiate the delivery was YM Hj Amir Hamzah Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman, HSE Manager of Brunei LNG and YM Hjh Khartini Hj Ibrahim, Head of Governance & Performance of Brunei LNG along with Mr Alfred So, General Manager of Jati Transport and Mr Jackson Kimbing, Service Manager of Jati Transport.
The ceremony began with the recitation of Doa Selamat by YM Hassanal Junaidi, Head of Emergency Response & Security of Brunei LNG followed by a group photo session and ribbon cutting ceremony.
After the ceremony, the ambulance features were demonstrated by Mr Onn Chee Wee, Service Advisor of Jati Transport to the senior management and staff of Brunei LNG.
Brunei LNG’s trained and qualified medical team is poised to respond to an emergency as every second counts and the addition of this new ambulance will further elevate the safety performance of the people in Brunei LNG.
It will also improve the overall effectiveness of Brunei LNG’s emergency response and allowing Brunei LNG to support the surrounding community in the event of an emergency, especially with the second outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
The ambulance is equipped with the latest Mercedes-Benz diesel engine and 7G-TRONIC transmission. This automatic transmission ensures the smooth transfer of power, while at the same time reducing fuel consumption and keeping emissions low. On top of the latest Mercedes Benz automobile technology, the new ambulance is equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment such as Zoll Auto CPR – which is an automated, portable, battery-powered CPR device, which increases the efficiency of the medical team when tending to an injured personnel that requires CPR.
The vehicle is also equipped with the latest safety features from Mercedes-Benz – Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
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When September ends
Third week coming. Cases are still quite high considering our population. Even though in a 100 region cases, it’s considered high because of the high infection rate and it also has been confirmed that we already have the Delta variant which is a very infectious virus than the original variant.
The control measures are to continue up until early October. There are still people who have no regards for the control measures as we speak. Some would appear in public places when they should have been isolated at their own homes. I just hope that one day Ministry of Health will share information on those who has been compound or prosecuted for breaking the Quarantine Act. So it will be a great example so they can take such law seriously. I am even shocked when James Kon of Borneo Bulletin shared how he came across a +ve person, trying to enter the fish market recently because he had a purple code on his BruHealth app.
Yang Berhormat Dato Minister of Health also shared that if any government officer who broke the Quarantine Act Order will also be terminated from his or her employment. Hence this is regarded as a serious offence. So let’s play our part to fight and flatten the curve.
The virus is definitely here to stay and will be part of our daily lives. Only once we manage to get pass the mitigation stage and contain the virus, then only we can loosen up the restrictions and help restart the slow activity especially in Brunei economy’s status.
Vaccination program update. A huge blow to those who are supposedly booked for the 1st dose starting September due to the shortage of the Moderna vaccines. This was publicly announced yesterday by the Minster of Health during the press conference. Yang Berhormat reassures the public that the other supply of vaccines will be coming to Brunei soon and Brunei will reach 70% by the end of 2021. Yang Berhormat also apologizes to the disruption in the vaccination program
However, the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will still and only be provided to the elderly, differently-abled, and pregnant women where they can get the first dose injections from any vaccination centres on a walk-in basis. However, it should be noted that the supply of vaccines for this group is limited. This doesn’t apply to breastfeeding mothers for now.
Those who already had their first doses, your bookings remain as scheduled and there will be adequate supply for those receiving the second dose.
As I have shared before on my IG live recap, we are supposed to receive 300,000 doses of Pfizer in the final quarter. It’s still not known what is the situation with the order. Yang Berhormat did highlight that it’s the accessibility to these vaccines that are delaying the vaccination program. With Brunei’s good relations with other countries, let’s hope we can expedite the process of receiving these vaccines. I like the idea how the Australia government have a swap initiative where they secured 500,000 doses of Pfizer from Singapore and they will send back to Singapore the same amount once they have the orders later in December. Who knows the Brunei government can work a similar deal. Then again, every country has their priorities to protect their citizens.
As of now, we are only at 22% for those who are fully immunised (with two doses). The rate percentage per day is averaging at 0.6 and if you do that Maths, it will be less than 90 days to hit the 70% mark. That, of course, if we have access to the Pfizer vaccine as well. So let’s hope for the best and once we reach herd immunity, we shall see what plans the Brunei Government has in store for us.
Extension of vaccination centers. Some suggested to have more vaccination centres within the district but Yang Berhormat said it will be near impossible should the government were to execute this. There are many things to consider – the paramedics, the specialized cold storage for Moderna, the man power, space and a few more. These are not easily accessible with our current resources. Hence having it at dedicated vaccination centre, it will be a better in the economy scale of things for Brunei.
The 2nd wave impact. Definitely a much more devastating impact that the first one. To date, we have recorded an additional 8 deaths in a span of 3 weeks as compared to the 3 deaths in the 15-month period. Furthermore, it was confirmed that the variant is Delta which is much more infectious than the original variant. In just a span of three weeks, cases have broke the 2,000 mark which is considered high for our population.
The good news is that the majority of the cases are in Category 1 and Category 2 where they are mostly asymptomatic or having just mild symptoms. More than half in Category 1 have been isolating themselves at the confinement of their own rooms due to logistics and centers being overwhelmed. As we speak, newer isolation centers have been identified with the latest being at Mahad, Tutong which can accommodate up to 338 patients.
As for the number cases where it’s on a downward trend, it is still early to say as the results of the swab tests are still not a true reflection as 94 positive cases from the 146 cases reported recently was based on the second swab during their 12th day of isolation whereas the 50+ cases are results from 24 hours ago. Let’s we come to a stage where numbers won’t be multiplying and Yang Berhormat Dato keeps emphasizing those on Quarantine Order to stay put at home “Teranah di Rumah” because there are those who still snuck out of their homes and this will simply disrupt the plans for us to move forward by reducing control measures phase by phase.
Insurance. Speaking of vaccines, I want tot share the Great Eastern Brunei has an insurance product that covers that vaccination. Basically once you are vaccinated, you can get special coverage. I did ask about insurance during the press conference where should one who are vaccinated get better and reasonable premium fees for their insurance since they are considered low risk to those who are unvaccinated. It’s a pretty new ball game and I know Delta Airlines will charge their unvaccinated employees an extra $200 per month. So this could be a game changer but it’s still early days to know how the insurance company in Brunei sees about this or even business entities.
Singapore will be introducing the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) and guess what… Brunei is part of Singapore’s VTL which means we can fly to Singapore with certain conditions and criteria. Travel insurance is one of their criteria and should cover a minimum of BND 30,000 for Covid-19 related medical treatment and hospitalization cost before they travel to Singapore. Speaking of travel, yea, the first country for me to visit, once everything has settle down, is definitely Singapore.
Oyen the celebrity. Despite the second wave, there’s always a silver lining and that is Oyen. The orange adorable cat made its debut on social media on August 10 and the responses have been overwhelming and welcoming. It has taken Brunei by storm and kudos to the Ministry of Health for creating such an iconic mascot.
However, there have been a public backlash for those who have been in a way, profiting from selling merchandise with Oyen’s image without the consent of the Ministry. When being confronted, some of the vendors would go to an extent to redesign Oyen which again can be considered plagiarism as the redesign is still an inspiration from the original artist.
It then came to the attention of the Ministry and they were kind enough for those who are interested to use Oyen in their merchandise, they can simply contact through email email@example.com
On that note, Ministry of Health, Brunei is collaborating with Ophthalmology Society and Edy Aswandi (the original creator of Oyen) in selling the official Oyen face masks at 7pm on the 3 September. Just visit https://bruneieyesociety.com/ to pre-order your Oyen mask. The proceeds will go to the Covid-19 relief funds.
Less support the students. Another device donation campaign is being carried out by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI). The campaign aims to support online learning and to help students in need as an effort in addressing the impact of the second wave in Brunei Darussalam.
The Device Donation Campaign will take place until 30 September 2021 from 8:30am to 11:30am except for Friday, Sunday and public holiday. Check out the posters for more details on how to donate. Their target is to reach 5,000 devices to the students and last year they managed to raise almost 1,700 devices. Your contribution is much appreciated.
Mental health. Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) is collaborating with Health Promotion Centre (HPC) to promote and raise awareness about mental health among the people of Brunei amidst the local Covid-19 situation and as a long-term plan as part of its partnership to promote health and well-being. T
he collaboration will help promote awareness and education on mental health issues which will be uploaded on BIBD’s and HPC’s Mind Your Mind social media channels. “The re-emergence of the Covid-19 situation in Brunei has caused a huge impact on all of us, in which a number of changes had to be made in order to curb the spread of Covid-19,” said Nor Syahmun binti Hj Matassan, Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Strategy Lead at the Health Promotion Centre.
“These changes and uncertainty unfortunately can lead to stress, anxiety, fear, and lack of motivation for many of us. Although this is a common and normal reaction during a pandemic situation, it must be addressed. It is more important now than ever, for us and the whole Bruneian community, to mind our mind and maintain good mental health and well-being,” she added.
“We, the Ministry of Health through the Mind your Mind Brunei Team at Health Promotion Centre is grateful to have this opportunity to work and collaborate together with BIBD and Community for Brunei to share series of tips and strategies that can hopefully help everyone maintain good mental health and well-being especially during these challenging times.”
The Ministry of Health would like to highlight and remind the public to not hesitate to ask for professional help if anyone is feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the current situation. They may contact the mental health professionals at Talian Harapan 145 for support, every day from 8.00am to 11.00pm
My view: This is a great outlet especially for those who are experiencing this. During the first wave, it hit me really hard – mentally, emotionally and physically because the fear and anxiety of the virus. I was worried about my well-being and also my family members. I can relate also to a few of my friends who under went quarantine at the National Isolation Centre and they probably had it worst due to the restrictions in place and also being confined to a smaller area than usual for a minimum of two weeks.
So, do reach out the number 145 and hopefully they can assist you. Let’s not take mental health for granted.
Coping with the “new norm”
His Majesty the Sultan’s titah. His Majesty shared that for over a year, Brunei Darussalam was safe and free of infections. We have no neglected to be grateful to Allah the Almighty for this blessings as we are aware that nothing will take place without His consent and will. However, on August 2021, we were caught off guard by local transmissions involving seven individuals and the following days, the numbers came rising.
His Majesty said that no misfortune will occur unless through committing sins, and it will not subside unless we seek forgiveness from Allah the Almighty and repent for their sins.
“If we wash our hands with water or sanitiser, we should wash our sins by seeking forgiveness and repentance.”
“We, as a people of faith, still hope that Allah the Almighty will grant our prayers and good deeds to cleanse Brunei from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Vaccination centers. Alhamdullilah, more centers are opening up, the latest being at Institute of Health Sciences at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. This was publicly announced yesterday at the press conference. This is welcoming news as the demand for vaccines have surged after the second wave hit Brunei hard. It was also made public that Brunei received 100,000 doses of Moderna vaccine which was donated by the government of the Republic of Singapore. The contribution by Singapore reflects the special relations with Brunei Darussalam and their continued support in fight against the virus.
Almost 70% of the population in Singapore are vaccinated and this is what Brunei wants to achieve before year end. So far almost 40% of Brunei has at least 1 dose of the vaccination while only less than 15% are fully vaccinated. So insyaAllah by year end, we can reach 70% and that’s also waiting for the arrival of the few hundred thousand doses of Pfizer to Brunei Darussalam which could be the by final quarter of 2021.
Cases still on the rise. There’s no determining on where the peak will be. It has been 10 days and the cases have subsided. Instead we have at least 20 clusters related to the positive cases with Chung Hua KB cluster being the highest followed by Champion 7 cluster.
Yang Berhormat Dato Dr. Isham Jaafar, Minister of Health, shared that they will need at least one week of data from the BruHealth to study the pattern and see how they can better prepare to handle the current situation. I do hope the investment of the BruHealth app pays off in learning such trends. It is still a great app, nonetheless, especially with the implementation of the your BruHIMS record and also the effectiveness of the BruHealth if you keep your bluetooth activated at all times.
Digital Quarantine Order. Now this is a very new thing for all those residing in Brunei Darussalam and quite a few will still be clueless or unsure (I can’t blame them). The first day of the launch of the Digital Quarantine Order was a few glitches where some users where given the QO on their BruHealth without any context since he or she wasn’t even a primary or secondary contact with a +ve patient. It seemed to be resolved and stable as we speak but there are still a handful of people unsure the mechanism or instructions required once they received an QO on his or her app.
Basically once you receive the QO, you are required to undergo self-isolation at your said address. The app also features a tracking of your whereabouts (bluetooth must be activated) and you can also request for food deliveries. Because of the tracing feature, should the person with an QO violate by straying more than 100 metres from their home, the tracker will notify the relevant authorities. Such offenders can be fined BND 5,000 or even be prosecuted in Court and fine up to BND 10,000. So yea, this is considered a serious matter indeed should one breach the Quarantine Order. Now I wonder if anyone has breached the QO.
So peeps, it’s important to get keep using your BruHealth app now with the second wave kicking us even harder. We have been slacking indeed when using the BruHealth app and taking for granted of our situation. I am also guilty of it sometimes for not scanning the QR Code when entering a premise. I believe that if the majority had been very discipline in using the QR code for the past few months, it would have help the contact tracing even easier when the second wave hit. We are just one or two steps behind and I do hope we are able to contain the spread. If we could just turn back time….
Endemic stage. This was a question I raised during the Press Conference (15/8/2021). When replied, Yang Berhormat Dato said, “We have to live with. It’s in the population just like H1N1.” So it’s important for the country to be fully immunized or the aim is for Brunei Darussalam to reach 70% for vaccination. He aims to reach a pace of 10,000 vaccination per day once the new stock of vaccines arrive within this week.
It will be good news for Brunei if we treat the situation as endemic rather than pandemic so we can get on with our “new normal” life. I assume there will still be mandatory to wear mask but it will be less worrying once we reached herd immunity and protecting the community. Business will hopefully run as normal and it will help to kick start the economy back into first gear.
Lacking manpower. This is the true test of time for Brunei Darussalam. The thought of the existing National Isolation Centre was already considered a privileged and always on standby should any cases sprout out. Little did we know the community spread has exhausted the capacity at the National Isolation Centre, the logistics at the vaccination centers and even the hotline at 148. There’s also shortage of resources for transportation of the positive cases who were supposedly to be transported to the National Isolation Centre. Even the Ministry of Health needs more manpower in the “red zone” area which majority of the volunteer isn’t taking any risk which is understandable.
I’m sure by the second or hopefully by the third week, everything will be in order and the cases will just keep appearing every now and then until we can contain the spread. The related government agencies are on top of things to strategize on how to run the operations at a smooth manner. The 2nd wave have really caught us off guard and no one could have predicted the high number of infection that has taken Brunei by storm. Other countries are already experience 3rd or 4th wave of infection. We have enjoyed far too long (15-month) and it was a matter of time before the bubble burst.
Currently, according to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, we have quite a number of volunteers who signed up to help as Ministry of Health needed all the help they can. Already around 4,000 registered under the Youth Volunteer Group as of August 20 and since the second wave, a total of 400 youth has signed up. Though 400 are active and on duty at designated locations, they still need more volunteers.
The volunteers also have transported food ration to the 840 homes that are under Quarantine Order to accommodate more than 5,000 individuals. Volunteers can sign up through www.sukarelawanbelia.com or through the Mengalinga App or their hotline 891 3762.
Contacting 148. It’s good to know that the hotline number 148 has increased in manpower, from 7 people to 20 people, but the number of call-ins is still considered very high (in the region of 600 calls or more daily). Even their whatsapp/telegram line 730095 is too overwhelming with thousands of messages to go through. Hence Ministry of Health are still looking for volunteers to help with the hotline segment.
It’s also known that the Brunei Red Crescent is also assisting the 148 hotline and you can contact the following numbers – 826 0420, 826 0320, 826 0360, 826 0370 and 826 0390 from 8am to 8pm.
Or you can also contact Talian Darussalam 123 or whatsapp them at 833 3123 or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Come to think of it, I feel that I am also playing a role of “148” as I do share information to those who are seeking for answers and I will answer accordingly with the knowledge being shared by the Ministry of Health. So can you imagine those behind the line, constantly dedicating their time to answer any queries. This takes a lot of mental strength as they will have to deal with different types of personalities. So please, do have compassion for them and they are just humans and doing to the best of their capabilities with the resources given. Just have to be patient. Even a friend of mine made 192 calls to 148 before she successfully got hold of a person for her vaccination slot. So keep trying and don’t give up 😀
A tip: Try to call before midnight or after midnight. Chances getting through is higher indeed. Good luck and thank you for your understanding.
2nd Wave is NO JOKE
New clusters: It’s time to pull our socks up. Preach what we say and not for the sake of saying it. Our habits must be re-programmed once again to be more vigilant and be more alert. Every single move or step, if miscalculated, can be catastrophic. It’s the time to be “gagah” as quoted by Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham bin Hj Jaafar, the Minister of Health.
Yesterday was no surprise to see the numbers increasing from Day 1 of the second wave and on upward trend. Day 1 saw 7 local cases, Day 2 saw 15 local cases and Day 3 (yesterday) hit a high 38 local cases.
KB Chung Hwa cluster is the highest with 29 positive patients and this cluster has yet to show signs of decreasing in numbers as the swab tests are still waiting for results. The KB Chung Hwa cluster is related to a 16 year old boy (case 363). A new cluster, ABCi, is also being identified where there are 5 cases while cluster Total has 4 new cases. The Starlodge cluster has no new cases. The #362 case has yet to identify the source of the infection and still undergoing investigation.
The vaccination and swab centres are overwhelmed ever since the second wave. The Ministry of Health needed more man power and especially the volunteers to once again help to ease the logistic nightmare that was quite apparent such as longer queues with limited social distancing. Last night, private securities have been deployed to help with the queue system and ushering at the populated centres and clinics. So that’s an improvement. But MOH will definitely need more help from the volunteers to help with the overwhelming numbers present at the respective centres.
Now there are newer tighter control measures:
- Any mass/social gathering is not allowed
- 15 pax allowed for funeral arrangements
- 5 pax for “Akad Nikah” ceremony
- For elderly parents living separately from other family members, only 2 family members are allowed to visit the parents at a time
- You can hike or jog individually or in 2s if they happen to live in the same household
- All officers and staff (government and private sector) are required to Work-From-Home (WFH). Only essential staff are allowed to work in their physical space.
- Front-liners (health sector, security sector, hospitality sector, transportation sector)
- Daily necessities sector (food, retail business)
- Facilities and utilities sector (electricity, water, telecommunications)
- Officers at the border and entrances to Brunei Darussalam
- Oil and gas and downstream sectors
- Development sectors
- Agri-food and forestry sectors
- Leaving your home without any significant purpose is not allowed
- Only two people from one family are allowed to buy daily necessities
Price of Masks: This is quite subjective. Not many are aware on the different prices of masks. Let’s put it this way. If you go visit a fabric shop like YMRM Galleria, you will see the same colour of kain baju melayu at different sections. But… but… you will notice the prices are different from each other because of the quality. Same goes for masks.
I know there was one particular brand that was stocked up by Hua Ho what was priced at $120 per box. Then again, Yang Berhormat Dato Isham said that this particular mask was legit and perhaps one of the highest grade quality mask because it’s N95. That price alone is considered reasonable for N95 standard. Whereas the rest of the masks in the market are of different qualities.
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr. Hj Amin Liw bin Abdullah, the Second Minister of Finance and Economy addressed that there won’t be a shortage of masks in Brunei. Even so, there is no shortages of mask regionally and we are able to import should we are running low on stocks. The same can be said for hand santizers.
But I do hear reports that some shops deliberately hike up their masks prior to the second wave announcement. For this, it is considered unacceptable practice. If you know of any, you can forward that to me and I can get the relevant agency to deal with them.
Stay Home: Once again, I would like to advice everyone to stay home, stay calm and stay safe. Don’t forget to wear your mask if you’re out and about!! Let’s hope for the curve to subside. We can do this 😀