Move to ease COVID-19 restrictions in stages gets thumbs up

Azlan Othman

The public yesterday applauded the government’s move to lift COVID-19 restrictions in stages for driving schools, gyms and fitness centres, sports facilities (indoor and outdoor), golf courses, restaurants, cafes and food courts as well as stalls and markets.

“Alhamdulillah, it is a welcome move by the authorities to lift restrictions on food outlets as this will improve the country’s economy,” said President of the Asean Food and Beverage Alliance Haji Abdul Halim bin Saim. “Food handlers must strictly follow the Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines such as personal hygiene, wearing face masks, gloves, hairnets and sanitise the seats/tables. Restaurants should also serve only an ala carte menu,” he said.

Haji Halim also lauded the move not to offer buffets for the time being.

“The public must follow and abide by the guidelines such as using the BruHealth app to ensure traceability, physical distancing and use hand sanitiser. If an individual is not feeling well, he/she must refrain from going to public places,” he said.

Haji Abdul Halim said the food handlers’ guideline requirements during COVID-19 should be a permanent standard operating procedure (SOP) in the MoH guidelines for food and beverage outlets. Enforcement officers must intensify their scrutiny. Unemployed locals can be provided jobs as enforcement officers,” he added.

Business entrepreneur Dayangku Rina said this is a good move by the government to start opening up phase by phase as other countries have begun to lift restrictions.

She said since the economy is affected, the government has made the correct move to lift the restrictions. Dayangku Rina hoped the restrictions would be completely lifted by next month.

“People need to obey the rules and regulations and not take it for granted, especially children. It is still not the time for children to have fun at indoor playgrounds. If possible, parents should not bring children to public areas until the pandemic is over.”

“One should always practise good hygiene and follow MoH guidelines. Self-distancing is still very important,” Dayangku Rina said.

Jimmy, a workshop staff said business has been bad of late.

He said previously, ahead of Hari Raya, he earned BND3,000 but now it is less.

“The situation in Brunei is not as bad when compared to our neighbouring countries with lockdown. I can still go out and buy food without any obstructions,” he said.

Meanwhile social media is also abuzz with mixed comments on the lifting of restrictions with netizens advising people to be cautious, not to crowd the places, maintain self-cleanliness and use santiser.

Such a move will help boost the economy after eating outlets were barred from dine-in for the past two months. “With only 30 per cent of customers allowed at one time, restaurants need to introduce limited dining-in. Customers should be allowed to patronise a restaurant for only one hour. This will enable more customers to patronise the restaurant,” an observer said.

A gym owner near the capital was also relieved with the move. He told the Weekend Bulletin that they had to pay the rent to the landlord during the two-month closure. “I have been asking the authorities to at least allow two to three gym-goers to work out at the premises just for a duration of half an hour before the next batch arrives,” he said.

Another businesswoman who wished to be identified only as Rin urged customers not to go in large groups. “Health is everyone’s business. I urge owners to open five tables at the maximum for bigger restaurants and three tables for outlets with smaller space. The best way is to stress on reservations and ask for the number of people,” she added.