Coronavirus: One new imported case detected as more restrictions lifted The government raises limit on public gatherings to 350 people and will allow organised sports from September 7

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

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei registered one new imported COVID-19 case on Thursday as the government announced more easing of coronavirus curbs in its fourth and final phase of de-escalation.

The latest case involved a 33-year-old man who arrived in the sultanate on August 28 aboard Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI874 via Kuala Lumpur from Indonesia.

The asymptomatic patient is being treated at the National Isolation Centre, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press briefing. 

There are now three active cases, with the national COVID-19 tally reaching 145. The number of recoveries stands at 139 and three deaths have been recorded since the first infection was detected in early March.

The minister said 32 of the latest case’s contacts have been identified, of which 26 have tested negative for COVID-19 while the rest are awaiting test results.

‘COVID-19 infection does not guarantee immunity’

Responding to reports of a “first case” of coronavirus reinfection in Hong Kong, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the reinfection meant that long-term immunity is not guaranteed if one has recovered from COVID-19.

“It also shows that we can get reinfected when the antibodies are low,” he added.

Coronavirus reinfections have also been reported in the US, Belgium and Netherlands.

The minister said the reinfections will raise questions on the effectiveness of vaccines.

“In a way, there will be a lot of impact [for Brunei]. More vaccines [will] need to be produced and most likely, the vaccines will need to be given twice a year. The cost is double now since we have to give the vaccines twice a year,” he added.

The minister said the Phase 3 clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines have begun, but it remains to be seen whether the vaccines will be effective against the coronavirus.

“We need to monitor it closely. For Brunei, we are working closely with WHO and other partners to get updates on the trial,” he added.

A worker at Times Cineplex conducts temperature checks on cinema visitors. Cinemas reopened on July 6, after shutting for four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Yusri Adanan/The Scoop

Gatherings of up to 350 people permitted

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham also announced the increase in limit for social and public gatherings from 200 to 350 people beginning September 7.

The revised limit is part of the government’s gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions, which started on May 16.

The government has also made it mandatory for all businesses to print and display BruHealth QR codes at their premises.

The minister urged the public to scan the BruHealth QR codes that would help with contact tracing in the event of a disease outbreak.

The health ministry has issued 517 compound fines to businesses that flouted public health control guidelines. A total of 636 business premises have been inspected nationwide since June.

Common offences include staff not wearing protective face masks and not conducting temperature screening on their customers.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Dato Hj Aminuddin. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

MCYS allows organised sports

From September 7, organised sports events will also be allowed but only for recreational sports, including walking and running; cycling and exercise activities such as aerobics and tai chi.

Speaking at the press conference on Thursday, the minister of culture, youth and sports said organisers who wish to hold recreational sports events must obtain government permission.

Organisers are also required to put forward their COVID-19 control measures in line with the health ministry’s guidelines, said  YB Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.

The number of participants is based on the health ministry’s mass gathering guidelines.

Sports competitions are still banned.

The minister further said senior citizens centres will now be allowed to operate at full capacity from the previous 80 percent.

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