The year 2020 was an impactful year. People’s lives changed – adapting to new norms of wearing masks, being mindful of social distance, and constant use of sanitisers. Looking inwards into Brunei, the efforts of the government, private sector, and the public has made Brunei spread-free from COVID-19 for over a year, stated the Ministry of Education (MoE) in a press release.
The first COVID-19 case was reported in Brunei on March 9, 2020. Uncertainty prevailed with people not knowing if they could go to work, if students could attend school, or if acquiring basic needs from the shops would be possible. However, Brunei implemented swift measures against the new pandemic.
A year on, the society in Brunei is now in Operation Level 5 (New Normal). While everyone in Brunei enjoys a spread-free life within the country, it is crucial that everyone in the society play their roles in practicing good hygiene and conforming to health requirements.
Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) instructor Muhammad Fadhil bin Abu Bakar said, the compliance of everyone in Brunei made the change possible. “As an educator, how quickly the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education reacted to the pandemic has led to Brunei’s safety. Having clear communication as well as stating out the standard operating procedures for everyone to follow was also vital in this pandemic situation, ensuring that everyone understood what was to be followed to ensure everyone’s safety,” he said.
As of March 8, 2021 all public places such as mosques, restaurants, recreational parks, and entertainment centres are open for everyone while the use of the Bruhealth app helps monitor contact tracing if and when needed to secure public well-being.
With the excitement of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the public was able to celebrate with their immediate family and close friends, with emphasis on good hygiene, social distancing and staying vigilant with the surroundings.
“When I watch the news and see how other countries are combatting the pandemic, I feel thankful that my life in Brunei is now almost back to normal with some precautions,” said Amal Nur Syasya Syafiqah binti Aprizam.
In educational institutions, the Department of Schools continues efforts of distributing hand sanitiser, handwash, surgical facemasks, thermometers, and disinfectants for its school population. The health and safety of students, teachers, and staff has been, and remains the most important priority to ensure we return to a COVID-free country.
Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College lecturer NurolHuda binti Haji Seruji expressed gratitude of how far Brunei has come in combatting the pandemic. “We are all blessed to have a normal and physical classroom situation. My students are more focussed and appreciate their time in school, not wanting to waste the experience of being here. Watching the students being able to experience college life and socialising is a sight I had hoped to see again,” she said.
School leaders and teachers are responsible for the students’ welfare, ensuring the right protocol is still being carried through. Students who are not well are recommended to stay home and/or seek medical attention.
Additionally, it has been a standard procedure for teachers to acquire information of students whereabouts after their term holidays. School leaders and teachers play the role of relaying information on student activities that may compromise health and safety guidelines.
Excitement and anxiety prevailed in the air near the start of school after Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays.
Muhammad I’yad Wa’iz bin Rosli, a student at Lambak Kiri Secondary School said he was “kind of scared and cautious of everything.
“My family and I made sure to practise all guidelines when I came back to school. The teachers and staff made sure our class was clean and did check-ups when we weren’t feeling well. If my friend and I were not feeling well, we wore masks. It has become a habit. I’m glad that Brunei is now safe. I hope we can continue our efforts to maintain a COVID-19 free country.”
Marazibah binti Haji Matyassin who teaches at Awang Semaun Secondary School said she and her colleagues continue to ensure the students’ safety. “We follow and adhere to government guidelines. As a school is a public place, our administration stresses on mindfulness about who visits the school. We limit the number of people coming onto the school premises – keeping it small and heed the standard operating procedures set by the relevant ministries’.”
Hajah Noor Ira Rainah binti Haji Saparudin, in expressing gratitude of how far Brunei has come to be a spread free COVID-19 country, said, “When my children returned to school, I was weary. I made sure they practised good hygiene by using hand sanitiser and disinfect their tables and chairs in class. I believe the guidelines put in place at schools keep my children safe.
“Their teachers make sure that the school is a safe environment. I trust our efforts as a community in following the guidelines that are effective and we should strive to conform to these guidelines to keep each other and Brunei a COVID-19 free country.”
Hamdillah Abu Hanipah, a parent to primary schoolers, said he was very happy when schools restarted physical classroom.
“It has been lonely for them to be at home. Now a year in, my children have learned to appreciate spending time with their teachers from whom they can learn much more, while interacting with their friends. I place trust in their school as they are following the guidelines to keep my children safe. Our government and the public have made our country safe. It is our duty as parents, to play our role in maintaining a safe environment so our children can experience normalcy again during the pandemic time,” he said. The MoE said, the support, cooperation and consistent efforts from authorities and the public have been the synergy to the stability to what we have achieved now. Following the regulations by ministries are pertinent to maintaining health and safety during this pandemic. The country’s precautionary measures, particularly on swab test, self-isolation and quarantine requirements has allowed us to enjoy community-spread-free condition.