Shouldering the responsibility of distributing food packs to individuals under quarantine order (QO) and self-isolation notice is no easy task.
The ration needs to be sufficient for the household as well as the length of quarantine period.
In an interview with the Bulletin, Assistant Director of the Social Service Division at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Haji Khairul Arifin bin Haji Abdul Aji shared that they receive a list of individuals on quarantine order or isolation notice, as updated by the Ministry of Health Emergency Operation Centre (MOHEOC).
He said, “The list will only consist of contact numbers, addresses and the number of days on QO. Afterwards, we will process the list by calling these individuals for confirmation.”
It is a lengthy process, he admitted but added that “we want to avoid duplications while ensuring that the details provided are accurate”.
He noted the array of food items in the ration, with the core being rice, sugar, dried and canned food, potatoes, eggs and instant noodles and optional food items such as canned food such as chicken curry, sardine or beef curry and beverage options of tea, coffee or chocolate.
“Once the list has been confirmed, the volunteers will pack the items from Category A to G, which A being the smallest and G being the biggest. It will then be divided into zones to make the delivery easier.
“During the early days of the second COVID-19 wave, our distribution centre was packed and we suffered manpower shortages, causing a delay in delivering the food rations.
“To cut down on delivery delays, however, we tend to assign the tasks based on the volunteers’ familiarity with the areas,” he said.
Haji Khairul Arifin also shared that if they received repeat requests from the same household to top up supply, the centre will make sure the residents QO has been extended.
Food rations, he said, will only be delivered once for a two-week QO or self-isolation notice, unless the order has been extended, at which point another batch of food will be delivered based on the number of days added to the QO.
There were five food distribution centres, two in Brunei-Muara District, and one in each of the other three districts.
He said, “For Brunei-Muara District, the two centres – the Youth Centre and Sungai Kebun Sports Complex – operate alternatively to maintain the business continuity plan (BCP).
“If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 to one of the centres, the other one can continue to operate without a hitch.”
Asked how the centres operated prior to the implementation of stay-at-home directive, Haji Khairul Arifin said volunteers worked tirelessly to put together the food packages, assisted by staff from the public sector, such as the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoEF) and Ministry of Education (MoE), and the private sector.
“Since there was no curfew imposed, we worked until night time to ensure all the food items were sorted out properly,” he said.
However, he added, in the Transition Phase, “we scaled down the number of volunteers with the decrease in the number of daily new cases. So the situation is somewhat more manageable now”.
Haji Khairul Arifin said some of the centres have since been closed, with the Mumong Sports Complex relocated to the Kuala Belait Municipal Hall, and the Tutong Sports Complex moved to the Community Development Department in Tutong.
Asked whether the food ration will continue once the Sultanate reached the Endemic
Phase, he said it will be dependent on the number of daily COVID cases.
However, he added that when it comes to food ration, “we distribute to households regardless of nationality. So long as they are on QO, we make sure they are taken care of”.
Haji Khairul Arifin also said, “It is a very meaningful thing we are doing here, to work tirelessly to feed the citizens and residents in these challenging times.
“We hope the public is also grateful for the assistance received by the government.
“It goes to show how keen the government is to look after the welfare of the people, which is a directive issued to several agencies to protect the populace against COVID-19 in the pandemic.”
He also extended his gratitude to those “who have been working at the food distribution centres, as we understand how exhausted they feel sometimes. But they are serving the nation, and they should be proud of the commitment they have shown throughout the pandemic”.
Haji Khairul Arifin added, “Without these volunteers, the operation would not have been as successful as it is now.”