Guidelines on mass gathering restrictions

Hakim Hayat

The Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday issued an updated guideline on restriction for mass gatherings, social events, meetings or training sessions amid COVID-19 in Brunei.

The guideline was drawn up in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, where Brunei is currently in the containment phase.

These public health measures are put in place in order to reduce the risk of local and further transmission in our community and one of the known effective measures is to limit large crowds and mass gatherings in close proximity over a prolonged duration.

A mass gathering has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an occasion, either organised or spontaneous where the “number of people attending is sufficient to strain the planning and response resources of the community, city, or nation hosting the event”. (WHO, 2008).

The types of events that falls under mass gathering, (but not limited to) include ticketed events (cinema, cultural, sports and entertainment events); personal or social events that involve large crowds (weddings, birthday, BBQ or karaoke, family or social get-togethers); conferences or training courses and meetings; recreational activities in open areas (sports and physical activities); and religious gatherings (to also be guided by the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

Organisers are advised to postpone the events if possible. However, if the event needs to proceed, they must put in place the following precautionary measures in accordance with each event.

Currently, all ticketed events such as cinema, cultural, sports and entertainment events are not allowed.

The Ministry of Health issued an updated guideline on restriction for mass gatherings, social events, meetings or training sessions amid COVID-19 in Brunei

Personal or social events that involve large crowds in residential locations (birthdays, BBQ or karaoke, family or social get-togethers must limit the number of attendees to 20 to 30 people; Ensure physical or social distancing measures are put in place. For example, stagger seating arrangements at least one to two metres apart; Ensure good ventilation. Encourage the use of fans and open windows, where possible; Reduce contact with others eg avoid shaking hands; Know your guests or who you invite – place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of attendees; Always ensure personal and environmental hygiene. Ensure that there are adequate and clean toilet facilities as well as for washing hands with soap and water, also disposable hand towels or tissues and covered rubbish bins. Do also provide hand sanitisers, where possible; Attendees must practise social responsibility including respiratory etiquette at all times; and advise family members who are not well not to attend.

For conferences or training courses the number of participants should be limited to 20 to 30 people (depending on the size of the room); Wherever possible or if there are more than 30 participants to use teleconferencing for any training sessions; Employees should be seated one to two metres apart from each other or put in place markers or stickers on the floor or seats; Avoid shaking hands; Keep the room well ventilated; Place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of attendees; and ideally the venue should not have more than one person per 16 square metres of usable space.

For meetings, the number of participants should be limited to 20 to 30 people (depending on the size of the room); Wherever possible or if there are more than 30 participants to use teleconferencing for any discussions or meetings; Employees should be seated one to two meters apart from each other or put in place markers or stickers on the floor or seats; Avoid shaking hands; Keep the room well ventilated; Place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of attendees; and where feasible and as much as possible, organise the meeting so as not to exceed 30 minutes and avoid long speeches or formalities which cause attendees to congregate longer than as necessary.

For religious gatherings (for example Tahlil / Doa Selamat and mass prayers at home – to also be guided by the Ministry of Religious Affairs), the event should limit the number of family members to 20 to 30 people (depending on the size of the rooms/house); Ensure physical or social distancing measures are put in place. For example, stagger seating arrangements at least one to two metres apart; Ensure good ventilation; Encourage the use of fans and open windows, where possible; Reduce contact with others eg avoid shaking hands; Know your guests or who you invite – place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of attendees and always ensure personal and environmental hygiene; Ensure that there are adequate and clean toilet facilities as well as for washing hands with soap and water, also disposable hand towels or tissues and covered rubbish bins. Do also provide hand sanitisers, where possible; Attendees must practise social responsibility including respiratory etiquette at all times; and advise family members who are not well not to attend.

For recreational activities in open areas (sports and other physical activities), individuals should maintain a distance of one to two metres apart from each other during the activities; Not to have more than five people in a group; Not to loiter in large groups after the activities and if unwell, do not participate in any recreational activities.

Meanwhile, the elderly with chronic diseases; Immuno-compromised individuals such as suffering from kidney or lung problems, cancer or other immunosuppressed conditions; Pregnant women; Infants and children below five years’ old and those who are unwell especially with respiratory symptoms are advised not to attend these gatherings. Attendees or participants of events or gatherings are also advised to monitor their own health conditions after attending the event and should seek medical attention if they become unwell with fever and/or respiratory symptoms and know of a person attending the same function has been confirmed as a case of COVID-19.

For more information, contact the Health Advice Line at 148.