MoH issues updated guidelines

James Kon

The Ministry of Health (MoH) issued an updated version of Guidelines on Social Gatherings and Events, Meetings and Training Sessions yesterday.

In the latest guidelines, changes were made for Registration and Solemnisation of marriages (Akad Nikah).

According to the statement, the guidelines are drawn up in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei Darussalam.

Brunei Darussalam is in the containment phase of the pandemic where cases have been detected in the country. These public health measures are put in place to reduce the risk of local and further transmission in the community. One measure is to control and limit mass gatherings in proximity over a prolonged duration.

The definition of 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).

In the context of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam, examples of mass gatherings currently not allowed include cultural, recreational and entertainment events and personal or social events, religious events, wedding ceremonies, birthdays and get-togethers involving the use of enclosed venues such as banquet halls, restaurants and other event venues.

The precautionary measures that organisers need to put in place to help with the government’s effort in controlling the COVID-19 transmissions for personal activities and family get-togethers and religious activities such as Tahlil, Doa Selamat and congregational prayers in own homes only, include limiting the number of family members to not more than 30 (depending on the size of the house), the use of tents and garages or other temporary structures for this purpose are not allowed and ensuring physical or social distancing measures are put in place.

The public should stagger seating and prayer arrangements at least one to two metres apart, ensure proper ventilation, encourage the use of fans and open windows where possible, reducing contact with others such as avoiding shaking hands, knowing which family members attended – placing measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of family members, ensuring personal and environmental hygiene by putting in place 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.

Where possible, provide hand sanitisers, practise social responsibilities including respiratory etiquette at all times, exclude or advise family members who are not well not to attend while individuals can wear face masks if they wish.

The following activities are allowed subject to the precautionary measures are in place. This includes personal activities and family get-togethers and religious activities such as Tahlil, Doa Selamat and prayers in own homes only, registration and solemnisation of marriages (Akad Nikah), meetings, conferences, training courses and job interviews including written examinations, and recreational activities (sport and physical activities) in open areas, which are also to be guided by the Municipal Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), Forestry Department of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT), Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe), of the Ministry of Development (MoD) and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

For registration and solemnisation of marriages (Akad Nikah), solemnisation is to be conducted at the Syariah Courts, Brunei Darussalam. The permission to marry at this time can still be considered provided that the solemnisation adheres to the procedure or guidelines set by the Syariah Courts.

Registry and civil marriages for other faiths can take place in the Civil Marriages Registry Unit, Supreme Court and should comply with the procedures or guidelines set by the Supreme Court. The public can visit www.judiciary.gov.bn for information on the established procedures and guidelines. If the groom or bride is unwell, it is advisable to postpone the wedding; while marriage registration for other faiths can be registered at the Registries Division, Attorney General’s Chambers and should comply with the procedure or guidelines set by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Meetings, conferences, training courses and job interviews including written examinations should limit the number of attendees to not more than 30 people (depending on the size of the room). If there are more than 30 participants, use teleconferencing for training sessions, employees should be seated one to two metres apart from each other or have markers or stickers on the floor or seats, conduct brief meetings, where possible, ensure personal and environmental hygiene by having in place adequate and clean toilet facilities as well as for washing hands with soap and water, disposable hand towels or tissues and covered rubbish bins.

Where possible provide hand sanitisers, reduce contact with others such as avoid shaking hands, ensure good ventilation, encourage the use of fans and open windows, where possible, provide contact tracing measures where necessary, such as obtaining complete attendance information including name, telephone number and so on; and individuals may wear face masks if they wish.

For recreational activities, such as sport and physical activities in open areas, also to be guided by the Municipal Department, of the MoHA; Forestry Department of the MPRT; JASTRe of the MoD; and MCYS, the individualised activities allowed include jogging, brisk walk, hiking, cycling and light exercises without the use of equipment for example
Tai Chi.

If company is needed for jogging, brisk walk, hiking and cycling, the public is advised to ensure it is with individuals who are easily contactable for contact tracing purposes.
For activities mentioned in light exercises without the use of equipment for example Tai Chi, will only be permitted if it is not more than five known persons in a group that are easily contactable for contact tracing purposes.

Maintain a distance of one to two metres apart from each other during the activities, do not loiter or wait around in groups before, during and after the activities, disperse immediately after the activities and do not participate in any recreational activities (sports and physical activities) if unwell.

For those with chronic diseases, individuals suffering from kidney or lung problems, cancer or other immunocompromised conditions, pregnant women, infants and children below five years, and people who are unwell especially with respiratory symptoms are advised not to attend events or activities. It also includes elderly with health problems.

After an event or activity, attendees and participants are advised to monitor their own health conditions. They should seek medical attention if they become unwell with fever and/or respiratory symptoms, know of a person attending the same function has been confirmed as a case of COVID-19.

The public can contact the Health Advice Line at 148 for advice or instructions.