BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei recorded 214 new coronavirus infections on Monday, its highest daily tally since August 22.

All but one of the new cases were local transmissions, with the other imported from Singapore.

The health ministry also identified seven new clusters, including two at Hua Ho Manggis Mall (12 cases) and Rimba Complex (7 cases).

The Rimba Complex cluster was detected after more than 300 people were swabbed in a mass testing exercise on Saturday night.

Five of the new clusters were linked to individual cases who spread to household members.

There are now 95 active clusters after two clusters – 362 and 1257 – were closed without new cases over the past 28 days.

Responding to a question on the reason behind the spike in cases, the health minister said many of the confirmed cases were close contacts of those who were infected with COVID-19, while some were detected after reporting flu-like symptoms.

Most of the new clusters involved households as people are still making non-essential outings, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said during his daily press briefing.

“If they still want to go out, then we will not see the end of this [outbreak] very soon,” he added.

About 70 percent of the 95 active clusters were household clusters.

Brunei’s highest daily coronavirus count was 314 on August 22, which the health ministry attributed to backlogged swab samples that had to be sent to Singapore for processing.

Laboratories last month faced delays in processing swab tests, but the setting up of a 24-hour mobile lab has since resolved the issue after increasing Brunei’s testing capacity to 8,000 a day.

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

The minister previously said he expected the number of COVID-19 cases to report a downward trajectory by mid-September as public health control measures start to show its impact.

Brunei has been in a partial lockdown for six weeks following the detection of its first locally acquired coronavirus infections in 15 months.

Asked whether he still believes the coronavirus caseload will decline soon, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the community is key in determining whether Brunei will experience a prolonged COVID-19 outbreak.

He added that members of the public need to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, including leaving the house only for essential purposes and refrain from visiting relatives and friends.

“Although the COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing infections, breakthrough infections can still happen.

“Preventive measures need to be continued and everyone still needs to exercise social responsibility, especially to protect those at high risk, the elderly and children who have not been able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine yet,” he continued.

Death toll climbs to 25

Another two COVID-19 patients have died of coronavirus complications in the past 24 hours, the ministry said.

A 67-year-old man and 59-year-old man were the latest COVID-19 victims.

The ministry also confirmed that one of the two deaths that was pending investigation to ascertain the cause of death has been classified as a COVID-19 fatality. The other case died of another cause unrelated to the coronavirus.

COVID-19 has claimed 25 lives in Brunei since the pandemic began, with the majority (22) of deaths recorded in the second wave.

A total of 118 people were discharged overnight, taking the number of active cases to 1,652.

Thirty people are in the intensive care unit, including eight critically ill patients.

The overall COVID-19 tally stands at 5,261.