BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei detected the highest number of daily coronavirus infections on Sunday with 15 imported cases from London, bringing the overall COVID-19 tally to 172.

The health ministry said the new cases were part of a group of 81 people who arrived on a Royal Brunei (RB) Airlines BI004 flight from London on December 21.

The ministry could not determine whether the 15 patients were infected with the more transmissible B117 variant, which was first discovered in the UK.

During a press briefing, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said healthcare workers were not able to send test samples for genetic sequencing due to low viral load among the patients.

The test samples can be genetically sequenced if their cycle threshold (CT) value is 20 or lower, he said.

A CT value of 20 or lower indicates high viral load in the infected person’s nasal swab test samples.

The minister told The Scoop on the sidelines of the briefing that two samples from the recent imported cases from India have been sent for genetic sequencing and results are pending.

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

More COVID-19 imported cases are expected in the coming weeks as Brunei continues to receive foreign arrivals, who were approved by the Prime Minister’s Office to enter the country for essential travel.

Another RB flight has been scheduled to arrive from London on January 4.

“Even though we are receiving foreign arrivals, we have procedures in place and new arrivals from countries with high community spread are required to self-isolate for 14 days and they would be tested on the 10th or 12th day of their isolation,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham.

The new cases surpassed the previous record of 14 daily coronavirus infections reported on March 13.

As concerns over the new and more contagious COVID-19 strain grow, the education ministry had announced the delay of Bruneian students returning to UK universities on December 24.

The number of COVID-19 infections continued to climb in the UK with a record-high 57,725 new cases on Saturday.

The health minister said case 165, a 20-year-old man started experiencing sore throat 10 days after his arrival from London, while the other new cases showed no signs of infection.

All the latest cases were reported to be foreign nationals within the age range of 19 to 21.

There are currently 20 active cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre, including one Indian patient who was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

The latest cases brought the number of imported cases to 31 since the last local infection was reported on May 6 last year.

Brunei has recorded 242 days without any domestic transmission of COVID-19.

A total of 149 people have recovered from COVID-19, while the death toll stands at three.