BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Testing has revealed that a coronavirus patient who was quarantined and treated in Brunei was carrying the South African variant of COVID-19.

In its daily press statement, the Ministry of Health said the variant was found in an imported case from the UK, who arrived in Brunei sometime in January 2021.

The ministry said the patient was discharged from hospital at the end of January, without providing further details.

Last month, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said MoH had sent several test samples taken from COVID-19 patients for genetic sequencing to determine whether any of the variants were present in Brunei.

This is the first known incidence of a COVID-19 mutation present in the sultanate.

“The public are advised not to feel anxious on this latest development. The Ministry of Health has taken the necessary regulatory measures to ensure that the infection does not spread,” the ministry said on Friday.

“The results of the surveillance activities so far have not found any incidents of infection related to this case in Brunei Darussalam.”

Travellers to the sultanate are isolated and tested for COVID-19. They must also complete a period of quarantine, ranging from two to 14 days, depending on the risk categorisation of the country they have travelled from.

All viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19, constantly mutate into new versions or variants.

There is currently no evidence that the South Africa variant causes more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected. However, there are concerns it can spread more readily and vaccines may not work quite as well against it.

The South African variant carries a mutation, called N501Y, that appears to make it more contagious or easy to spread.

It is already the dominant virus variant in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa.