BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei reported 197 new coronavirus cases on Friday, shattering the daily case record for the third straight day.

In a COVID-19 press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said majority of the cases (106) were confirmed from a backlog of swab tests, while 91 were detected overnight.

There are now 979 active cases in Brunei.

Coupled with limited testing capacity, the surging caseload has caused delays in the processing of swab samples but the health ministry expects to clear the backlog of tests in three days after building a new 24-hour mobile virology lab at BRIDEX.

The ministry previously said clearing the pending lab tests was critical to provide a more accurate picture of Brunei’s infection trend and better manage the outbreak.

Dealing with its worst outbreak yet, Brunei has recorded 994 coronavirus infections since its 15-month streak of no locally acquired cases was disrupted two weeks ago.

Based on The Scoop’s calculations, the sultanate has been averaging 105 cases over the past seven days, a 183.7 percent jump from 37 infections in the previous week.

COVID-19 testing also rose 39.3 percent in the last week, with an average of 3,146 tests administered in a day.

The new mobile testing facility, which started operations on Thursday, is expected to push the number of tests to about 8,000 a day.

Lab workers inside the mobile inflatable testing laboratory, which will began operations on August 19, 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Sparks Co

COVID-19 positive case dies of heart attack

The minister Friday announced the death of a 70-year-old man who tested positive for COVID-19.

However, the case was not classified as a coronavirus-related death because the man, Case 849, died of a heart attack.

The deceased was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Thursday night and passed away on Friday afternoon.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said no further details would be released to respect his family’s privacy.

Three people have died of COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began last year.

Cases spike in Belait

COVID-19 infections continued to soar in Belait as the two largest active clusters — Chung Hua Middle School Kuala Belait (CHMS KB) as well as Champion 7 oil field and related vessels added 27 and 46 more cases, respectively.

The CHMS KB and Champion 7 clusters have increased their respective total tally to 200 and 192.

Both The Mall and Department of Immigration and National Registration clusters each recorded 10 new infections, bringing their respective total to 25 and 33.

In addition, Al-Falah/Freda Radin schools and energy solutions provider Aker registered six new cases each.

Two clusters — Brunei Shell Petroleum headquarters and Cluster 583 — added five more infections.

Four new cases were linked to Cluster 884, while the Authority for Building Control and Construction Industry recorded three new cases.

The Institute of Brunei Technical Education Kuala Belait campus grew to 11 infections after logging one new case.

A new cluster of four cases has been identified and linked to Patient 884.

Some 74 new cases have not been linked to any of the 22 clusters yet.

The ministry said three people are critically ill and another 20 require close observation in the ICU.

A member of the public is ushered into a vaccination cubicle at the Indoor Stadium in Berakas, July 5, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

New vaccination centre at UBD

Members of the public can start getting their COVID-19 jabs at Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Health Sciences from August 21.

Only those who have booked an appointment slot via the BruHealth app are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine shots at UBD.

The new vaccination centre will open every Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 8am to 3:30pm.

There are now three vaccination centres in Brunei-Muara district, including the National Indoor Stadium and Jubli Emas Health Centre in Bunut as the government is pushing to speed up COVID-19 jabs amid the surge in cases.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said vaccinations are expected to increase to 10,000 a day with the addition of the UBD and Bunut centres.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

Singapore donates 100,000 Moderna vaccines

The announcement of the new vaccination centre comes a day after the Singapore government donated 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which arrived on a Royal Brunei Airlines flight on Thursday night.

“The Moderna vaccine is a contribution by Singapore which reflects the special relations with Brunei Darussalam and their continued support in the fight against COVID-19,” the health ministry said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said vaccine access remained a challenge but was optimistic of achieving the country’s 70 percent vaccination target by the end of the year, so long as 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are delivered by the final quarter of 2021.

Singapore has the highest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia, with 77 percent of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In contrast, only 14.3 percent of residents in Brunei have completed their two-dose vaccine regimen since April.