BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — After a WhatsApp message went viral regarding a foreign national who tested positive for COVID-19 in Belait, the health ministry said the case is not an active infection with further tests indicating the antibodies were from a past infection.

During a press briefing on Friday, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said the man, who arrived from the US on March 15, underwent a preliminary coronavirus test which came back positive on Thursday.

However, he is classified as an import case as subsequent testing found that he was likely infected before arriving in Brunei due to the high level of antibodies in his system.

“Further [antibody] tests found that the case has a high immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody value, while the immunoglobulin M (IgM) value is negative,” the minister said.

IgM antibodies are usually developed early in an infection (7 to 28 days after infection), while IgG antibodies are more likely to show up later.

“Scientific studies have found that a person who has been infected with COVID-19 is likely to still have non-viable viral residue in their respiratory tract for up to a year after being infected.

“Sometimes, [a person] can still have positive test results even after being infected for a long time. However, [past infections] like this case cannot infect others,” YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham added.

PCR tests taken before the individual’s arrival in Brunei and during the quarantine period returned negative results.

After his preliminary PCR test came back positive on Thursday, a repeat PCR test showed a negative result on the same day.

The man, said to be an offshore worker, took a swab test on Thursday as he was about to return to his home country.

He was reported to be in good health and never showed any signs of infection while in Brunei.

The latest import case raises the national COVID-19 tally to 236, but Brunei’s streak of no local transmissions for over a year remains intact.

Over 200 contacts urged to undergo COVID-19 testing

While Case 236 is no longer infectious, the Ministry of Health still conducted contact tracing to ensure there is no active community infection.

To date, more than 200 close and casual contacts have been identified.

Fourteen of those contacts tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday, while the remaining contacts have been instructed to undergo testing as soon as possible.

Anyone who has had any contact with the case within the past 14 days have been advised to get a swab test at the following places:

  1. Sports Complex, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Saleha Hospital
  2. Berakas Health Centre
  3. SARI Centre, Suri Seri Begawan Hospital
  4. Seria Health Centre

‘Stay vigilant and use BruHealth’

Following the new case, the health minister reiterated the importance of continuing COVID-19 measures, such as scanning BruHealth QR codes and conducting temperature checks at public places.

“Refusal to [comply with the guidelines] will complicate contact tracing if there is a need to trace contacts for suspected COVID-19 cases.

“It will not only slow down the Ministry of Health in taking action but will also facilitate the spread of the pandemic among the community in Brunei Darussalam,” YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said.

Anyone experiencing signs of infection such as fever, cough, cold and flu-like symptoms were advised to immediately consult a doctor and undergo a swab test.

The minister further warned the public against crossing borders to neighbouring countries via smuggling routes.

The public were also encouraged to get COVID-19 jabs at designated vaccination centres to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Another Bruneian tests positive for COVID-19 in Egypt

The minister said another Bruneian student has contracted COVID-19 in Egypt, less than a week after four Bruneian students tested positive for the coronavirus in the north African country.

Asked for an update on the students’ condition, he said two of the students have fully recovered from the virus.

“This means we have three active cases [in Egypt] but they are well and being looked after by our embassy,” he said.

There are currently 30 Bruneian students in Egypt.