BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health minister has assured Brunei residents that the recent rise in imported COVID-19 cases does not pose a high risk of spilling over to the community.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said travellers bound for Brunei are swabbed before and after their arrival.
“If the SOP is followed through, InsyaAllah I don’t think we should worry,” he said during a press conference to announce the start of Brunei’s vaccine rollout.
All recent arrivals who tested positive for the virus were essential workers in various industries.
In parliament last month, the minister said the government must balance health control measures with the needs of the economy, including the entry of foreign workers to support economic activity.
“Our border control for air travel is good, but our concern now is mouse trails that are used for smuggling,” the minister said, acknowledging potential security loopholes along land borders.
YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said that the health ministry still conducts surveillance testing to ensure there is no widespread community transmission.
“[Leading up to] National Day, for the first four weeks we swabbed almost everyone who went to the hospital for fever.
“But even now we’re still doing random sampling in the clinics just to make sure we [check for] any sporadic evidence of community spread.”
Seven imported cases were detected over the past week after the ministry confirmed a new infection from the Philippines on Thursday.
A total of 72 imported cases have been recorded since May 6, 2020, when the last case of local transmission was reported.
The government has yet to lift its travel ban since it was imposed on March 24 last year, but foreign nationals can still enter and leave the country once they have received approval from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Brunei has one of the strictest border control measures in the world, requiring essential travellers to be tested for COVID-19 before and after their arrival. They must also undergo quarantine, with the number of days dependent on the risk category of the country of departure.
Travellers from Malaysia have also been barred from entering Brunei via land and sea crossings since January 13 due to the resurgence of the virus.
Fifteen active cases are currently being treated at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.
The national COVID-19 tally stands at 213, including 195 recoveries and three deaths.