BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – More than half of 1,600 active COVID-19 cases are still waiting to be admitted to isolation facilities as the health ministry is prioritising patients with severe symptoms due to a bed shortage.

Driven by the Delta variant, the swift rise in coronavirus cases has forced hundreds of people to isolate at home while waiting for more beds to be prepared at makeshift healthcare facilities.

Brunei reported 115 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, marking the eighth consecutive day the country’s cases stayed above 100.

Speaking during a press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases who are still waiting for hospital beds should not feel anxious.

“Due to limited [isolation facilities], we prioritise those who really need it, for example those with worsening coughs or experiencing breathing difficulties.

“If their symptoms are mild, they should just stay at home, isolate themselves and take good care of their health. Members of the public should only call 991 when they are really feeling unwell,” he added.

The minister Thursday said over 70 percent of COVID-19 active cases were asymptomatic.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

With all 296 beds occupied at the National Isolation Centre (NIC) one week after the second COVID-19 began, the ministry is building a temporary hospital next to the NIC in Tutong.

In addition to existing makeshift facilities at the National Service Programme (PKBN) and Mahad Islam Brunei college, hundreds of COVID-19 patients are also expected to be accommodated at two new temporary isolation centres in Belait – Lumut camp and Belait Sixth Form Centre.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said more than 120 people were transferred to the NIC and makeshift facilities at PKBN and Mahad Islam Brunei on Thursday.

“Hopefully, more positive cases can be transferred to new isolation facilities today and tomorrow.

“We cannot admit 200 people all at once… we need to ensure the safety of the isolation facility, that’s why it takes time, so hopefully people will stay patient,” he continued.

Unvaccinated make up majority of COVID-19 cases

The minister said 83 percent of the COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, while 12 percent were partially vaccinated.

Another five percent were breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated, but the minister said they were either asymptomatic or developed mild symptoms.

Just 18.5 percent of the population have received both of their vaccine doses.

Brunei has been averaging 150 COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, up 45 percent compared to the daily average of 105 infections in the previous week.

More tests have also been administered in the past week, increasing 44.1 percent to an average of 4,534 a day following the opening of a 24-hour testing laboratory at BRIDEX.

The health minister said there are currently no plans to conduct mass COVID-19 testing despite the rising number of locally transmitted infections.

“We are still doing contact tracing for positive cases at the moment, identifying primary and secondary contacts. Although we have community [spread], we are still trying to contain it.

“Once the situation has calmed down, we can start mass swabbing,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on whether the ministry is considering mass testing among those in the services sector.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham further said some positive cases were detected via the drive-thru swab centre at BRIDEX.

Those who took the COVID-19 test at the drive-thru swab centre should stay at home and isolate themselves before getting their results, he added.

Source: Ministry of Health | Graphic: Dr Wee Chian Koh, CSPS

Another woman gives birth at NIC

The country has reported 2,041 infections since the second COVID-19 wave started three weeks ago, with the cumulative confirmed cases reaching 2,380.

Among the 115 new cases recorded on Friday, 48 were linked to 13 existing active clusters.

There are now 43 active clusters after one new cluster was identified and linked to Case 2262 with six cases.

Three new imported infections were also detected, two from the Netherlands and one from Ireland.

Fifty-nine of the new cases are not linked to any clusters.

Some 35 people have been discharged after making full recoveries in the last 24 hours and 34 people are being treated at the Intensive Care Unit.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said a pregnant woman who tested positive for COVID-19 has safely delivered a baby boy on Thursday, becoming the second active case to give birth at the NIC.