BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei saw a dizzying climb in COVID-19 cases on Sunday, recording 314 new infections.
Minister of Health YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said 218 of the new cases were from backlogged swab samples, while 96 were from tests conducted in the last 24 hours.
Among the new cases, 34 have been linked to Chung Hua Middle School in Belait — the largest cluster with 241 infections.
Another 19 cases have been linked to the Champion 7 oil field, an offshore cluster with a total of 222 infections.
The health ministry also identified four new clusters today, including one at Samima stationery store and another at Jaya Hypermart.
Since the second wave of COVID-19 was detected in early August, a total of 1,346 infections have been reported — 513 are not linked to any of the 27 clusters, implying significant community transmission.
Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said as the government’s isolation facilities reach capacity, the ministry has identified two additional locations in Belait that will be converted into temporary isolation centres for patients with mild symptoms.
The National Isolation Centre (NIC) in Tutong can only accommodate 320 patients, which led to the government converting the National Service Programme (PKBN) training camp and Mahad Islam Arabic school into makeshift isolation facilities that can hold approximately 600 and 800 patients respectively.
The government is also building a temporary hospital next to the NIC that can accommodate another 800 people.
Drive-thru swab centre to open Monday
The health minister also announced that a new drive-thru swabbing centre will begin operations at BRIDEX Hall on Monday, as part of efforts to increase testing capacity to 8,000 tests a day.
“We want to prevent the other swab centres from being overwhelmed,” he said, adding that it would decrease crowding and reduce the risk of COVID transmission.
He said MoH is working through a large backlog in testing due to the surge in new cases, which have increased almost three-fold week-on-week.
“Usually we could do 2,000 to 3,000 tests per day. And from today we can do 5,000 to 6,000 already,” he said. “So we’re almost nearing the end [of the backlog], give us a bit more time.”
Once the backlog is cleared, health officials hope to gain a more accurate picture of the scale of the current outbreak.
For the drive-thru swab centre, anyone can get tested so long as they are over 12 and possess a valid BruHIMS number. Members of the public can book a slot through the QueUp app.
Only two people in one car can get swabbed at any one time. Only one booking per vehicle is required.
For people with green and yellow BruHealth codes, they should not exhibit any signs of influenza — such as a cough, runny nose, fever or sore throat — when visiting the centre.
For people with a red BruHealth code, they can get swabbed at the drive-thru centre if they have been instructed to undergo testing.
However, anyone who requires a pre-departure swab for the purpose of overseas travel must go to the other designated swab centres.
The drive-thru centre will be open from 8am to 8pm from Monday to Thursday and Saturday.