BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – An inbound passenger from India HAS tested positive for the coronavirus, raising Brunei’s COVID-19 tally to 144.

The 36-year-old man arrived in the sultanate on August 19 through Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI874 from Kuala Lumpur, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press briefing Tuesday.

The patient, who has been working in Brunei for the past five years, had a fever upon arrival in the country but is no longer showing signs of infection.

There are now two active coronavirus cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre with the health ministry recording an imported case from the Middle East six days ago.

The health minister said 14 people who were onboard the same flight tested negative for COVID-19 while five others are awaiting test results.

Brunei keeps COVID-19 travel curbs

While Brunei has gradually relaxed social distancing measures in the country, the government is still enforcing travel restrictions in a bid to reduce the number of imported coronavirus cases.

Brunei has not registered any domestic coronavirus cases for more than 100 days, with about 40 percent of the country’s COVID-19 cases involving international travellers.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the task force that handles the reopening of borders has yet to decide on allowing Bruneians to travel abroad.

“We appreciate our neighbouring countries allowing Bruneians to travel there, but we have not relaxed our border restrictions for leisure travel among Bruneians yet,” he added.

The minister was responding to a reporter’s question whether Brunei will permit its citizens to fly to Singapore from September 1 as the city-state has waived quarantine requirements for tourists from Brunei and New Zealand.

However, visitors from both countries must take the swab test for coronavirus upon arrival in Singapore.

They will also be required to use its contact tracing app during their stay in the city-state and retain the mobile app for two weeks after their departure.

Singapore on Tuesday reported 31 coronavirus cases, its lowest number of daily infections since March.

The Brunei government previously said China and Singapore had proposed “travel bubbles” to restart bilateral travel more than two months ago.

‘Travel bubbles’ refer to agreements between two or more countries that will allow their citizens who are on essential trips to enter the countries without quarantine requirements.

Essential travel is currently allowed for Brunei residents but permission must be sought from the Prime Minister’s Office while foreign nationals need to send their applications to the Department of Immigration and National Registration before entering the country.

Mutated strain not detected in Brunei

When asked whether Brunei has seen a new strain of COVID-19 in its recent imported cases, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said genome sequencing showed that the confirmed cases were similar to the previous variant.

Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and Philippines, have recently detected the mutated strain of the coronavirus called D614G.

A study found that the current dominant strain of COVID-19 is more infectious than the original variation but there is no evidence to suggest that it is more severe.

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