Novel coronavirus: Brunei bans visitors from Hubei

James Kon

Visitors from Hubei province in China, or anyone bearing a passport issued in Hubei, have been barred from entering Brunei Darussalam.

Meanwhile, visitors who were in Hubei province within the last 14 days before arriving in Brunei Darussalam are also barred from entry into the country, with the exception of the citizens and permanent residents of Brunei Darussalam.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham bin Haji Jaafar made the announcement at a press conference at the Ministry of Health (MoH) building yesterday, as one of the measures taken against the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) by the Government of 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.

The press conference was also joined by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong and Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman.

Anyone who has been to China within the past 14 days before arriving in Brunei Darussalam and allowed entry into the country is required to undergo self-isolation for 14 days.

Brunei citizens and permanent residents who are currently in China are allowed to return to the country, but must undergo self-isolation within 14 days.

Any citizens and permanent residents feeling unwell while still in China are urged to postpone their return trip to Brunei and to seek assistance with the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in China, for further advice.

The MoH will issue a travel advisory for the citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam, which includes prohibiting travel to Hubei province and to postpone a non-essential trip to China.

All travel to China related to the Government of His Majesty will be postponed; therefore, government staff and officials are advised not to visit China at present. Ministries, departments and government-linked companies are to postpone any invitations for Chinese visitors to the country.

Cooperation from airline companies will be acquired to examine the passports of passengers during the check-in for flights to Brunei Darussalam. Anyone found to have been at Hubei province during the past 14 days will not be allowed to board the flight.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham said, “Currently, there are no cases of the coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) infection in Brunei Darussalam.”

A medical officer checks a passenger at the Brunei International Airport. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

He also said the Ministry of Education (MoE) has adopted measures with regard to local students who have returned to Brunei Darussalam from China, by urging them to undergo 14 days of self-isolation.

Meanwhile, 39 Hengyi staff members who have just returned from China are also undergoing 14 days of self-isolation.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham also revealed that 73 Bruneian students are studying in China, with only 31 students still there. Twenty-nine of the students are expected to return to Brunei Darussalam today. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will try to send the remaining two students back to Brunei Darussalam soon,” he said.

Meanwhile Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah said, “Students returning from China have been given a leave of absence for two weeks, to monitor their health. This was implemented last week, and was announced to all government, private and international schools.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham also pointed out that “Brunei Darussalam is currently in the alert phase of this public health event. The risk of importation into Brunei Darussalam is considered high. Brunei Darussalam is operationally ready to deal with the potential for imported cases, using three-pronged approaches, namely: the prevention of imported cases, the early detection of cases through screening at points of entry, laboratory confirmation and clinical alertness, and response to cases through strict control measures such as isolation and quarantine.”

He added, “Alhamdulillah, last week, we received the proper kits for identifying the coronavirus here. So we should be able to identify the virus within hours if there are any suspected cases.”

On reinforcing screening at all border entry points, he said, “Cruise ships will also have thermal scanning on board, prior to the passengers’ departure. At the land borders, we will use the temperature hand gun, because thermal screening is very sensitive to environmental temperatures and therefore less effective. So we hope to cover all of the entry points.”

When asked if there were any plans to restrict visas for Chinese visitors, he said, “With the ease of travelling around the world by flights, we are not restricting visas-on-arrival for Chinese visitors. As many countries have already been affected, our principle is that irrespective of their nationality, anyone from Hubei province or Wuhan will be barred from entering the country. Those who have been in contact with them will also be barred from entering the country.”

The MoH will provide updates on the latest development, as well as measures that need to be taken. For information, call the Darussalam hotline at 123, or visit the MoH website at www.moh.gov.bn.