BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei reported five new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative tally to 11.

The new cases involve three men who attended the same Tabligh (religious) gathering in Kuala Lumpur as Brunei’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, while the two other cases are spouses who did not travel abroad with the group.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) said all 11 cases are in stable condition at the National Isolation Centre, and do not show signs of fever or respiratory distress.

Ninety Bruneians are believed to have attended the mass gathering at Kuala Lumpur’s Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque, which Malaysian authorities say was attended by an estimated 10,000 people from several countries.

The Malaysian health ministry has initiated contact tracing after Brunei reported its first COVID-19 infection, with 5,000 Malaysian citizens potentially exposed to the virus.

In a press conference Wednesday evening, Brunei’s MoH said a quarantine order has been issued to 80 contacts of the 11 people  infected with coronavirus.

Over 100 people — those who attended the Tabligh gathering and their close contacts — have been sampled for COVID-19. Sixty-six have been tested while the rest are still waiting for results.

The individuals who tested positive for coronavirus travelled from Kuala Lumpur to Brunei on several different flights:

  • Royal Brunei BI872 from Kuala Lumpur to Bandar Seri Begawan
  • Malaysia Airlines MH2594 from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, Sarawak
  • Air Asia AK3541 from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, Sarawak

The ministry urged anyone who travelled on these flights to self-monitor for 14 days, and if they develop symptoms to get tested at the Flu Centre, RIPAS Hospital.

Source: Ministry of Health

Qurantine centres activated

Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the government has set up four makeshift quarantine centres which can accommodate 1,100 people should the outbreak spread among the general population.

Two have been activated — the stadium’s Games Village Complex and SEAMEO Voctech Regional Centre — to house the 80 people issued a quarantine order, as well as Bruneian students who recently returned from Korea.

Responding to media questions, YB Pehin Dato Hj Awg Abu Bakar said rumours of Brunei border checkpoints being closed are false, and that entry points to Brunei will remain open.

Weekly public events such as Bandarku Ceria will still take place, but he strongly advised the public to take extra precautionary measures.

The health ministry said mass gatherings are generally discouraged, and anyone attending events such as weddings should avoid direct contact with other people such as by shaking hands.

“We urge people to be socially responsible,” said health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar.

Gov’t urges calm amid panic buying

Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Seri Paduka Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the government had earmarked $15 million as a contingency for natural disasters and disease control, which covers the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said it would cover the cost to purchase additional medicines, COVID-19 testing kits and medical equipment.

The minister urged the public not to engage in panic buying and hoard household essentials such as food, face masks and hand sanitiser. Supermarket shelves across the country were left empty after panicked citizens cleared out stock.

“Be considerate to those truly in need, such as those who are unwell, caregivers and frontliners,” the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) said in a statement.

MoFE said the Treasury Department has sufficient rice stock to meet local demand, but again warned consumers not to hoard stock.

It also said customers must respect rationing measures for basic food items if they are put in place by retailers.