BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases will get notifications requiring them to undergo a 14-day quarantine via a new BruHealth app feature, the health minister announced on Friday.

The Digital Quarantine Order feature will facilitate the monitoring of close contacts, including tracking their whereabouts, allowing close contacts to report their daily health status and request for food deliveries.

It will also let authorities know if a person violates the quarantine order by straying more than 100 metres from their home.

Offenders can be fined $5,000 on the spot or be prosecuted in court, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said during a press conference.

As Brunei faces a second wave of COVID-19, members of the public are urged to update their current residential address and household members on the BruHealth app, so authorities can monitor and enforce quarantine orders.

Since it was launched in May 2020, the BruHealth contact tracing app has approximately 450,000 users, said Kevin Yeap, head of corporate at EVYD Technology, the company that developed the app.

App users must scan a QR code every time they enter or leave public places, allowing authorities to track potential carriers of COVID-19 in the event of an outbreak.

About 80,000 to 100,000 residents use the app daily, but an 80 percent rate of use is needed to make it an effective contact tracing tool. 

Senior Medical Officer Dr Mohammad Fathi speaks at a press conference on Aug 13, 2021. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

As COVID-19 cases surge, contact tracing remains the biggest challenge, said a senior medical officer, because the source of infection for many cases remains unknown. 

The lack of QR code scanning has made it more difficult to trace potential carriers, and some users also switch off their Bluetooth after scanning a code, said Dr Mohammad Fathi Dato Paduka Hj Alikhan.

The health ministry has also increased the size of their contact tracing team to 60 people with authorities in a mad dash to control the spread of the virus among the community. 

All close contacts of COVID-positive cases are required to quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative, as the incubation period for the virus can be as long as 14 days.