BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry confirmed 34 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including a new cluster of infections at workers’ quarters for Semporna Enak restaurant.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said nine people at the staff house have contracted the virus, but authorities have yet to identify the source of infection.

MoH has now identified six active clusters in Brunei:

• The largest active cluster is Chung Hua Middle School in Kuala Belait.  Recorded eight new infections on Tuesday bringing total to 37 cases.

• Energy company TOTAL. Recorded two new infections, bringing total to 13.

Al-Falah school. Added four new cases, bringing the total to nine.

Semporna Enak restaurant. A new cluster with nine infections.

Authority for Building Control and Construction Industry (ABCi). Recorded three new cases, bringing total to eight.

Star Lodge hotel. Added one new case, bringing total to 6.

Tuesday also saw two imported cases from Manila, Philippines; and one local infection linked to a 13-year-old boy who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. It is not yet known how the boy contracted the virus.

This brings the total number of new cases reported in the past four days to 111 – the steepest rise in infections Brunei has seen since the start of the pandemic.

File photo: A healthcare worker prepares a syringe containing the Moderna vaccine. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

With a second wave of COVID cases rapidly emerging, hundreds of people thronged swabbing centres in Brunei-Muara and Belait, hoping to get tested.

“Last night there were a lot of viral images showing the public, especially at the Kuala Belait hospital, gathering to get their swab test,” said Dato Isham. “Of course, the system is slightly overwhelmed because they didn’t expect a lot of people to come at once.”

He added that MoH has enlisted the help of police and military to control crowds and enforce social distancing at swabbing clinics and vaccination centres.

‘Vast majority of new cases are unvaccinated’

According to MoH figures, from the 92 local infections identified since Saturday, only seven were fully vaccinated (7.6%) while the other 85 (92.4%) were either unvaccinated or partially immunised with one dose.

The minister gave more details on the breakdown, sharing that of the first 60 local cases detected, 51 were unvaccinated – a rate of 85 percent.

“Preliminary analysis on vaccination effectiveness in Brunei Darussalam suggests that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is more than 70 percent effective at reducing [the possibility of] infection, including asymptomatic infection,” Dato Isham said.

Clinical reports from the National Isolation Centre show that patients who were fully vaccinated but still contracted COVID-19 experienced only mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

He added that studies from the UK and Canada showed that two doses were more than 90 percent effective at preventing severe complications, including from the Delta variant.

The health minister urged citizens to comply with the government’s COVID restrictions: “Vaccination supplemented by physical distancing measures and mask-wearing remains the most effective way for Brunei Darussalam to emerge safely from this pandemic.”