Border re-opening tied to vaccine availability (2020)

BY Azlan Othman

The re-opening of Brunei’s borders will depend on the take-up of the COVID-19 vaccine and the pandemic situation both regionally and internationally, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the minister said, “Our assumption is that the vaccine may be available in the Sultanate in June. But in reality, we don’t know when.

“To date, no COVID-19 vaccine has been given to the population of any country, as part of their immunisation programme.

“As explained earlier, we have to wait for our turn to get the vaccine, as it takes time to be manufactured and delivered. The bulk of our vaccine will come from the WHO (World Health Organization) and COVAX (a COVID-19 access plan co-led by the WHO), while another 20 per cent will be through bilateral arrangements.

“To open the borders, we must not look at the situation from our country’s perspective alone, but from regional and global standpoints.”

The minister said, “The uptake of this vaccine is also taken into account, where 70 per cent of the population has to be immunised before herd immunity can be reached.

“Although COVID-19 cases in the Sultanate are under control, the pandemic is still raging outside the country. Visitors entering the sultanate will need to undergo a pre-departure swab first.

“Even if the pre-departure swabs register negative results, we will still quarantine them.

Unfortunately, tests showed the three latest imported cases to be positive.

“But we still permit visitors to enter Brunei Darussalam for essential travel, to be with their families working here, and so on.”

Asked if there would be more de-escalation measures such as the easing of restrictions on team sports, since no local cases have been recorded for over 200 days, the minister replied, “It depends on the surroundings, especially neighbouring countries.

“Currently, there are no plans to relax the de-escalation plan.”

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin