BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Another two COVID-19 patients have died, the health ministry confirmed on Saturday.

One of the victims, a 50-year-old man identified as Case 2077, died of a lung infection after contracting the coronavirus.

The ministry has yet to ascertain the cause of death of a 76-year-old man who also tested positive for COVID-19.

Brunei’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 12, with nine of the fatalities reported in the current outbreak.

During his daily press briefing, the health minister said 126 new coronavirus infections were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,219.

One new cluster of 12 cases has been linked to a housing area in Belait’s Kampung Mumong, known as the Derma Wangsa cluster, said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.

The ministry conducted COVID-19 testing among residents in the neighbourhood on Thursday after several cases were detected there.

Sixty-eight of the new cases were unlinked, while 46 of the additional infections were linked to 12 existing clusters.

The number of daily recoveries exceeded new cases for the second straight day with a record high of 171 patients discharged overnight.

More people were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on Saturday, rising to 40 from 36 a day earlier.

A medical worker holds a bottle of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 5, 2021. Photo: Reuters

MoH in talks with ‘a few countries’ to get more vaccines

The government is in negotiations with “ a few friendly nations” to get more COVID-19 vaccines, said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham, who did not name the countries.

In response to a question on the progress of securing more vaccines, the minister said new vaccines are expected to arrive “in the near future, but we can’t say tomorrow or the day after”.

“As I said [before], it’s not easy to make any kind of swap deal because of the legal aspects and the administration behind it takes a while,” he added.

The ministry put a hold on first-dose vaccinations on September 1 due to a shortage of vaccines.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham last week said Brunei was holding talks with Singapore to secure vaccines through a swap agreement, but he did not disclose which vaccine type would be covered in a potential agreement.

WHO names Mu as new variant of interest

The minister said the Delta strain is still the “main concern” despite the emergence of Mu, which has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of interest.

“Mu is still new, there are still questions we don’t know, whether it has increased transmissibility or severity, or even resistance to vaccine,” he said.

Preliminary data from WHO showed that the Mu variant – first discovered in Colombia –showed signs of possible resistance to vaccines but further research is needed to confirm this.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said Delta is still the variant of concern that threatens the healthcare system.

On August 26, Brunei confirmed the presence of Delta variant after samples of local COVID-19 cases were sent overseas for genome sequencing.

Delta is still the dominant strain across the world, accounting for over 90 percent of sequenced cases globally.