MoH updates guidelines for mass gathering

Azlan Othman

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced an update to the Guideline for Mass Gathering yesterday. It provides guidance on events that are and aren’t permitted as well as the precautionary measures that should be taken by the public.

The guidelines include events such as personal and family events, wedding registrations and solemnisation, meetings, conferences, training courses and job interviews as well as recreational activities in the open area. As such, the previously issued guideline will no longer be used for reference and will be replaced by the guidelines dated April 23.

These guidelines are made as a follow up of the latest COVID-19 pandemic situation in Brunei Daru-ssalam. At this time, Brunei is in the pandemic control phase following a known case in the country.

These public health measures are made to reduce the risk of continuous spread of the infection in the society and one of these measures is to control and limit crowds gathering in close manner during long period.

On mass gathering, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), mass gathering refers to organised events or spontaneous, as well as having a sufficient number of individuals to handle planning and to give response to the resources of a community, region, or country that organised the event.

In the context of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam, an example of mass gathering not permitted at present include all cultural, recreational and entertainment events; personal or social events, religious events, weddings, anniversaries and festivals involving the use of public places especially enclosed venue such as banquet halls, restaurants and other venues.

Events or activities that are permitted, subject to precautionary measures are personal and family activities such as Tahlil, Doa Selamat and prayers at their own private residence/ home; marriage registration and solemnisation; meetings, conferences, training courses and job interviews including written examinations; and recreational activities (sports and physical activities) in the open area and 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 Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Precautions to be taken in helping the government efforts to control the transmission of COVID-19 are as follows.

For personal and family activities as well religious activities such as Tahlil, Doa Selamat and prayer at home alone, the steps include limiting the attendance of family members to not more than 30 people (subject to home size).

The use of camp, garage and or temporary structure for such Tahlil, Doa Selamat and prayer is not permitted.

One should also practise physical and social distancing for example distancing the seat or place of prayer at least one to two metres; to ensure the premises used have good ventilation. It is also recommended to use a fan and open windows if necessary;

One should also reduce physical contact for example, avoid shaking hands; identify family members present and to provide steps that allow contact tracing if needed, such as retrieving information of family members present.

They should also ensure that personal hygiene and the environment are always maintained such as provisioning clean and adequate restroom facilities, hand washing areas with soap, disposable towels or tissue, and closed trash cans.

If possible, they should also provide hand sanitiser; exercise social responsibility including ethics while coughing and sneezing at all times; exempting or advising family members who are not well not to attend the event and to wear facemask if they need it.

Meanwhile, elaborating more on marriage registration and solemnisation, the MoH said solemnisation shall be held only at Brunei Syariah Courts.

The permission to get married can still be considered provided such solemnisation adheres to special procedures or guidelines set by the Syariah Courts.

Marriage registration for other religions may be addressed in the Registration Division of the Attorney General’s Office and shall adhere to procedures or guidelines set by the Attorney General’s Office. If the groom or bridegroom is unwell, then it is advisable to postpone such wedding.

Meanwhile, for meetings, conferences, training courses and job interviews including written examinations, the MoH urged the need to limit the number of attendees not exceeding 30 people (subject to size of place); using teleconferencing for training sessions, if attendees comprise more than 30 people; to ensure seating distance is at least one to two metres from each other by placing markers or stickers on the floor or seating.

They should also conduct meetings briefly, if possible, provide measures to enable contact tracing if needed that is, by taking complete attendance information such as names, phone numbers and so on.

As for recreational activities (sports and physical activities) at open and guided by the Municipal Department of the MoHA; Forestry Department of the Ministry of Resources and Tourism; Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE) of the MoD; and the MCYS, private activities allowed are jogging, brisk walk, hill climbing, cycling and light exercise without the use of any equipment.

For activities (jogging, brisk walk, hill climbing, cycling) that require a companion, be sure to go with known individuals that are easily contactable for contact tracing. For light exercise without the use of any equipment, such as tai chi, it is allowed to have no more than five persons in a group that can be easily reached for contact tracing.

One should also practise social distancing of at least one to two metres throughout the activity, not to gather before, during and after activities; disperse immediately upon completion of the activity; and not to participate in any recreational activities (sports and physical activity) if not feeling well.

The MoH also said elderly citizens with health problems or chronic disease; individuals with weak immune system like people with kidney disease, heart disease, cancer or other similar diseases; pregnant women; children under five; and unhealthy people especially those who have respiratory symptoms are advised not to attend any events or activities.

The ministry also said precautionary measures should also be taken after attending an event or activity where it is advisable to monitor your own health, to seek treatment if one has fever or any other signs of respiratory infection; know and have met individuals confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

The ministry said these guidelines will be reviewed and updated subject to the current development of the COVID-19 epidemic nationally and internationally.

Contact the Health Advice Line 148 for enquiries.