Brunei records one new COVID-19 case after 91 days A 24-year-old student returning from Yemen tests positive upon return to sultanate

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Health reported one new coronavirus case on Friday, a 24-year-old Bruneian man who was studying in Yemen.

The man returned to Brunei on August 5 aboard Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI 874 from Kuala Lumpur.

He reportedly suffered from shortness of breath, but is currently in stable condition and no longer shows any signs of infection, the ministry said in a statement.

However, the patient will be quarantined at the National Isolation Centre until he is cleared of the virus.

In a press conference earlier today, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said it is unclear whether the man contracted the virus in Yemen or en route to Brunei. After leaving Yemen, he travelled to Cairo, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur before arriving back home.

The 24-year-old was travelling with a group of people from Yemen, which included one other Bruneian and 12 Malaysian citizens who later tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur.

The minister said the patient has not had any interaction with his family since arriving in Brunei, but that MoH has identified 13 people who he came into contact with. They have been quarantined and will be tested for COVID-19.

‘De-escalation of restrictions will continue’

Because the new case is an imported infection that was immediately isolated, it will not affect the government’s de-escalation plan, the minister said.

The next stage of de-escalation will be announced after consultation with a national committee comprising representatives from several government agencies.

When asked whether travel restrictions would be relaxed at the next stage of de-escalation, YB Dato Hj Md Isham said a special task force would review whether “green lanes” could be established with select countries.

“Any G2G (government-to-government) arrangement is going to be very dynamic and not fixed in stone,” he told reporters.

“If there is an outbreak or new infections in any of the countries that we’re not comfortable with — or they’re not comfortable with us — the [rules] may change. But at this time no decision has been made on this.”

Access to a potential vaccine

With several countries already conducting human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, the minister said the Brunei government has reached an agreement with Gavi, a vaccine alliance, to provide approximately 20 percent of the population with vaccines once it becomes available.

“A few countries claim they will have a vaccine ready by the end of the year or early next year,” YB Dato Hj Md Isham said. “Through the WHO we’ve come to an agreement with Gavi… to ensure we have access to a vaccine once it is available.”

Vaccines usually take years, if not decades, to develop, but scientists are working at breakneck speed to achieve the same amount of work in a matter of months.

About 140 vaccines are in early development and around two dozen are now being tested on people in clinical trials.

To date, Brunei has recorded a total of 142 COVID-19 cases, with a recovery rate of 97 percent. The country has recorded three deaths from the virus.

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