Struggles of expatriates amid coronavirus

Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Brunei Darussalam has done a stellar in keeping a tight lid on domestic outbreak.

As a result, while our borders are still close to non-essential travellers, citizens and other residents have been enjoying as much autonomy as the health crisis can afford us.

However, I can’t help but be sympathetic to the expatriates that are working among us, especially those who are apart from family.

There’s no expiration date to this pandemic. As such, they have no choice but to keep their chins up while awaiting the borders to re-open, so they could finally reunite with their loved ones.

While they could find solace in the company of fellow expatriates who are in the same boat, it is their mental health that is concerning.

The pandemic has turned the world upside down, and experts have noticed an increase in stress level, especially in the midst of rising unemployment and growing uncertainty about the future.

This is the time to seek comfort from our family and friends.

As a citizen, I am lucky to have my family close by. It’s simply not the case for a lot of my expatriates colleagues.

There’s a foreign national whose mother recently passed away in Brunei.

He had her cremated and ashes placed in an urn. He would like to bring her remains back to his home country, but due to the travel restrictions, he is worried that should he go back, he would not be able to return to the country where he makes a living.

On top of the grief, he has to suffer the inner conflict that haunts him every day.

If there’s anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it is that when there’s a crisis, it matters very little one’s nationality, race and creed.

When the authorities set up a fund to help with the fight against the outbreak, both citizens and foreign nationals came together immediately to contribute in whichever way they could.

Now that we have successfully contained the spread of the coronavirus, their battle continues.

For as long as the borders remain close, these expats have little choice but to cope with the separation from their families.

So next time you meet a Bruneian who feels the travel restrictions in this new normal have brought him or her a tremendous amount of inconvenience, tell him or her about the expatriates who would like to see their loved ones in these difficult times but can’t quite justify their travels as essential.

A Conversationalist