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 in a titah last night outlined an incentive in the form of a monthly special allowance of BND400 to healthcare workers and those involved in the fight against COVID-19 in Brunei, to recognise their sacrifices and commitment to the country amid this crisis.
The special titah, broadcast on Radio Television Brunei (RTB) from Istana Nurul Iman last night was His Majesty’s second address to the nation since the COVID-19 outbreak in Brunei was first reported on March 9.
His Majesty said that the BND400 allowance will be granted to doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, volunteers, cleaners, security guards and all those working with the Ministry of Health (MoH), especially at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, National Isolation Centre (NIC) in Tutong and also government-designated quarantine centres.
The monthly special allowance comes into effect March 2020 and will be extended until the eradication of COVID-19 in Brunei, His Majesty added. In the titah, His Majesty also announced that groups whose income are affected by the pandemic such as tamu traders, sellers at markets, taxi drivers and water-taxi drivers will also be given assistance that will be coordinated by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA).
His Majesty in the titah also urged landlords such as owners of commercial properties to be considerate with their tenants during this dire situation by alleviating the burden of affected businesses by waiving or reducing rents for a while until the pandemic is over. “If this can be done, it is inevitably a sedekah (charity) that will bring bounties in return,” added the monarch. His Majesty also stressed the importance of being responsible and adhering to rules and regulations, in light of a recent case where a group of people were caught gathering in a party at a hotel room that was also the location of a self-isolation facility. “I hope the authorities will take stern action in this case and let it be a lesson for all.”
Earlier in the titah, His Majesty outlined some of the many measures that the government has undertaken since the first COVID-19 case in Brunei, including the construction of a new National Virology Reference Laboratory to boost and speed up testing capacity; investment in Artificial Intelligence for a more systematic healthcare implementation and the introduction of economic stimulus packages to support those affected in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) categories. In the aspect of welfare, His Majesty has also consented for a National Welfare System (SKN) that will be launched in July.
“I am aware that even before or after the spread of COVID-19, many in the community still need assistance from the government. Insya Allah, this new system will make it easier for them to make their applications to the government,” His Majesty added.
His Majesty also said that Brunei as a community has proven its commendable caring attitude by rendering assistance to help the MoH in the fight against COVID-19. The establishment of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, His Majesty added, will be used for medical supplies in fighting the virus. His Majesty also extended his appreciation to all parties, including individuals in helping the government in this challenging time.
“Especially to the frontliners, including volunteers who have been working day and night to attend to COVID-19 patients and those under quarantine, I really appreciate their contributions,” said the monarch.
“I understand the burden carried by the frontliners. When others are bored sitting at home, they are always looking out for the time when they can go home. At home, their children are waiting and are missing them.” This, His Majesty, said is only the emotional side, and not to mention the risks they face as frontliners. “They are only equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and standard operating procedures (SOP) as a shield, and the rest, only prayers can be made for them.”
His Majesty also extended his appreciation to the Royal Brunei Police Force, Royal Brunei Armed Forces, National Disaster Management Centre, crew and pilots of Royal Brunei Airlines, management and staff of Brunei Shell Joint Venture, Government-Linked Companies, Foreign Direct Investors, telecommunications providers, private companies and other government agencies for their support to the government. On the first COVID-19 related death in Brunei recently, His Majesty hopes that the deceased’s soul will be placed among those who are pious.
Before concluding the titah, His Majesty prayed to Allah the Almighty for the protection against COVID-19 and urged the people to practise the recitation of Surah Yaasiin, apart from other verses from Al-Quran.