BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has reported its deadliest week yet in the second COVID-19 wave as the health ministry Friday confirmed the country’s fifth fatality in a week.

A 79-year-old man became the 16th person in Brunei to die of coronavirus complications.

Thirteen of the total COVID-19 deaths were recorded in the current outbreak.

Brunei registered four coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents – the eighth highest in Southeast Asia.

Fuelled by the Delta variant, this week’s coronavirus case count grew again after new infections had shown signs of slowing down in the previous week.

A total of 801 coronavirus cases were detected in the past seven days, rising 11.7 percent from the preceding week.

Brunei averaged 114 infections a day over the past week, up from 102 the week prior.

The weekly proportion of people testing positive for COVID-19 also climbed to the highest rate of 3.5 percent, as opposed to 3.2 percent in the previous week.

The health ministry administered more COVID-19 tests in the last seven days, jumping 10.4 percent to 3,613 tests a day from the previous period.

There was also a 64 percent increase in the number of recoveries after 1,121 people were discharged this week.

A senior citizen gives a thumbs up while receiving his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Indoor Stadium on April 26, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

Vaccination rate soars among elderly

COVID-19 vaccinations among the elderly have picked up the pace in the last 10 days after a sluggish start.

A total of 36,470 seniors or 80.7 percent of the elderly population have received at least one vaccine dose, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in his daily press briefing.

In comparison, just 43 percent of senior citizens took at least one COVID-19 jab 10 days ago.

Some 43.3 percent of the elderly population have completed their two-dose regimen.

Those over 60 can still walk in to any vaccination site to get inoculated before vaccines run out.

Older adults are at an increased risk of developing severe illness or dying from COVID-19, along with pregnant women.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said 2,478 or 70 percent of pregnant women have taken at least one vaccine shot.

The minister advised pregnant women to register at government maternal health clinics to get a vaccination appointment or they can walk in to any vaccination centre.

He said another woman gave birth to a boy via caesarian section on Thursday, becoming the fifth COVID-19 patient to deliver a baby at the National Isolation Centre.

On Thursday, it was reported that a 29-year-old woman had died of coronavirus complications after delivering a baby two weeks ago.

To date, 29.8 percent of the Brunei population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Lowest number of daily cases in nearly a month

The health ministry confirmed 63 new locally transmitted coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours — the lowest daily cases since August 14.

A day after new cases hit a two-week high, Brunei’s daily infections fell 135 percent on Friday.

Of the 58 existing clusters, the Champion 7 oil field and related vessels remains the largest active cluster with a total of 423 cases.

In addition, the Chung Hua Middle School Kuala Belait cluster recorded 293 infections so far.

The Mall in Gadong is still the largest active cluster in Brunei-Muara district with 150 cases.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said about 20 percent of confirmed cases in the current outbreak are currently unlinked.

The number of active cases stands at 1,454, while the overall COVID-19 tally reached 3,894.

Forty-one people are being treated in the intensive care unit, including nine who are critically ill.

A Hua Ho employee waits in an empty department store on August 14, 2021 after the government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Photo: Rudolf Portillo

‘We try to avoid a full lockdown’

In response to a question whether the government plans to impose more COVID-19 curbs to slow the number of cases, the minister said current restrictions are already stringent.

“To increase [restrictions] further means it’s a total lockdown. We try to avoid that as much as possible because it’s not as simple as people imagine.

“Lockdown means we are not allowed to go out, at least for a month,” he said, adding that businesses will also be closed.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said a lockdown affects the economy and mental health.

“We should consider, what do we get out of this? That is why we ask everyone to be cooperative, follow the regulations so that we can avoid a lockdown,” he said.

The government sent the country into a partial lockdown on August 7 when the first community cases were detected in 15 months.

Brunei will remain in semi-lockdown until at least October 3.