BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Identification wristbands will be issued to positive COVID-19 cases and their close contacts to deter them from breaching quarantine rules, the health minister said in his press briefing on Saturday.

Authorities will fasten the bracelet on coronavirus patients while visiting their homes and transporting them to healthcare facilities, as well close contacts ordered to undergo testing at swab centres, said YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar.

The bracelet is different from the electronic wristband the ministry used during the first COVID-19 outbreak last year as it does not have Bluetooth capabilities to track the whereabouts of those under quarantine in real-time.

The minister said the previous wristband had weaknesses in preventing quarantined individuals from leaving their homes.

“We felt that this is easier and simpler to use. Back then, if they don’t have a phone then we can’t use [the previous bracelet]. And if their phone is an iPhone, we can’t use it either, so there were a lot of limitations,” he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said wearers of the bracelet cannot take it off and would be punished if they cut the wristband.

“If we come to your house on Day 14 and we don’t see a bracelet, we won’t ask why. We’ll issue a $5,000 compound fine straight away.

“That means you didn’t stay home. We will not ask any more questions, we will just give you a $5,000 compound fine,” he added.

Quarantined individuals will be required to wear identification bracelets. Photo: Ministry of Health

The minister said the public can report to the police if they find someone wearing the wristband roaming around public places.

A red-coloured bracelet is issued to positive COVID-19 cases, while close contacts are required to wear a blue-coloured wristband.

Authorities will cut the wristband once individuals have completed their 14-day quarantine.

The introduction of bracelets comes three days after the government scrapped home isolation for COVID-19 patients due to incidents of people breaking their quarantine orders.

National COVID-19 tally tops 4,000

Brunei’s cumulative number of coronavirus cases reached 4,035 on Saturday after daily infections surged again with 141 cases compared to 63 the day before.

The health ministry also confirmed that a 62-year-old COVID-19 patient had died of blood infection, adding that the man’s cause of death was not related to the coronavirus.

Five new clusters were identified on Saturday, including one at Lof Bakery with 15 cases. The remaining new clusters are household clusters.

A total of 123 people were discharged in the past 24 hours, taking the number of active cases to 1,471.

Twelve people are in a critical condition and another 30 people require close observation in the intensive care unit.

A COVID-19 patient gave birth to a girl via caesarian section on Saturday, becoming the sixth person to deliver a baby at the National Isolation Centre.

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample at the drive-thru testing centre in BRIDEX on August 23, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said 187 or 1.8 percent of the 10,410 tests administered at the drive-thru swab centre in BRIDEX returned positive results since it started operations three weeks ago.

Less than two weeks after its opening, the drive-thru testing centre at Pusat Insani in Belait reported 53 positive test results out of 3,757 swab samples.

“We need to emphasise that if you’re doing a drive-thru swab, go home, isolate yourself, wait for the results and don’t go out,” the minister said.

Recovered patients unwilling to return home

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said there were instances where recovered COVID-19 patients did not want to leave the National Isolation Centre (NIC) as they wanted to accompany infected family members at the NIC.

He said this creates problems for new patients to be admitted to the NIC for treatment.

“We don’t want problems like this to repeat. If you’re told to go home, go home because the space is needed for other people who need it.

“We can’t think about ourselves only because there are still a lot of people out there in need of monitoring and treatment,” he added.