BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry detected 82 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, marking the first time in nine days Brunei’s daily COVID-19 case count fell below 100.

Brunei has averaged 150 coronavirus cases a day over the past week, a 45 percent rise compared to the previous week.

Two new clusters have emerged – Cluster 2155 with nine cases and Cluster 2230 with four infections, said Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar during his daily COVID-19 press briefing.

Forty-three of the new cases have been linked to nine active clusters, while the ministry has yet to identify the infection source for 28 of the additional cases.

There are currently 45 active clusters and the number of active cases stands at 1,788.

Six people are in critical condition, including one of two mothers who recently gave birth at the National Isolation Centre (NIC).

The mother is on a ventilator and heart-lung machine, said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham.

Another 29 patients with severe symptoms require close observation at the National Isolation Centre (NIC).

Fifty-one people were also discharged overnight, bringing the total number of recoveries to 664.

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

Asymptomatic cases no longer required to isolate at makeshift facilities for full 14 days

About 81 percent of asymptomatic and mild cases are currently placed at government isolation centres, the minister said, adding that they will be allowed to continue their quarantine at home once they are no longer infectious.

“If they’ve already [tested] negative by Day 8, we know the virus is no longer viable by Day 8, so they’re allowed to go[home].

“Their quarantine order will be extended for another 14 days at home. So they’re isolated for at least 21 days,” he added.

The minister acknowledged the long quarantine period compared to other countries in Europe, which only require COVID-19 patients to self-isolate for 10 days.

Earlier on Friday, it was disclosed that about 800 people were still waiting to be admitted to isolation facilities due to a bed shortage.

An extension of the National Isolation Centre in Tutong was built in 2020. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

NIC will only treat patients with severe symptoms

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said a temporary hospital built next to Mahad Islam Brunei college will be reserved for Category 2 patients with mild symptoms.

“The temporary hospital is for those Category 2B and above because it’s close to the NIC.

“If their condition worsens, it’s easy to go to NIC. It’s only a few minutes’ drive as opposed to placing them in PKBN or in Lumut [camp]. It’s far and will take time, sometimes up to two hours,” the minister said.

The makeshift facility at Mahad, which is being readied in three phases, is expected to house up to 1,000 COVID-19 patients.

With a 296-bed capacity, the NIC will only treat patients who developed severe symptoms.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said Brunei’s healthcare system has been stretched to the limit but private and military doctors have volunteered to join the fight against COVID-19.

“It’s a bit challenging because we’re pulling more resources to different places.

“Even in Tutong [NIC] and isolation centres, we’re adding more doctors and nurses. We’re stretched quite a bit,” he said in response to a question on how healthcare workers are coping with the increasing number of cases.