BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health minister Tuesday warned of a possible full lockdown if residents continue to disregard COVID-19 rules and a spike in cases persists.

During a press briefing, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said tighter coronavirus restrictions may be imposed as people are still flouting guidelines, such as holding karaoke parties and other social gatherings.

“If the public are still not complying with the rules, cases will increase and the only way would be a full lockdown,” he said in response to a question on whether the government is considering more stringent measures to rein in the spread of COVID-19.

Brunei reported 124 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, a 42 percent decrease compared to the previous day when it reported the second-highest daily cases since the pandemic began.

Noting that there is a steady rise in cases among household clusters, he said a full lockdown meant that everyone will not be allowed to go out except frontline workers.

“Shops will not necessarily open. There will be no deliveries, so we have to prepare food at home for at least one month.

“That is the shortest period if we [send the country into] a lockdown. If it is prolonged, a lockdown might last two to three months before we start seeing results,” he added.

There were reports of families holding physical tahlil (prayers for the deceased) ceremonies, and organising weddings with staggered arrival times or at separate venues amid Brunei’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham reminded the public that all mass gatherings are banned, except a maximum of 15 people at non-coronavirus funerals and 10 people at wedding solemnisation ceremonies.

“I hope the public understand why we want to control their movement. We are almost there, just wait a little longer in meeting your fiancée. There are also people holding karaoke and barbeque parties. These are not essential now.

“There’s only so much the Ministry of Health can do. If people still ignore the rules, then we will eventually [impose] a lockdown when the need arises,” he continued.

An empty Hua Ho Department Store at Yayasan Shopping Complex after the government imposed COVID-19 movement restrictions in early August 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo

The government earlier this month extended public health control measures until at least October 3, including mandating the wearing of masks in public places, as well as shutting schools, cinemas and sports facilities.

Brunei has been in partial lockdown since August 7 when the first locally transmitted cases were detected in 15 months.

One death reported; 18-day-old baby is youngest COVID-19 patient

A 55-year-old woman became the 26th person to die of coronavirus complications in Brunei, the health ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

Two new clusters have emerged – FOS THOR vessel with 11 cases and another household cluster with seven cases.

The large majority (71%) of the 96 active clusters were individual cases who spread to other household members.

Among the 124 new cases detected in the last 24 hours, two were imported from Manila.

Asked the number of children who are currently placed at designated healthcare facilities, the health minister said 274 children under the age of 12 are housed at five makeshift isolation centres across Brunei.

The youngest COVID-19 patient is 18 days old with mild symptoms and a one-month old infant has also been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said most of the children were asymptomatic except nine who developed mild symptoms.

The ministry has also reported incidents of poor behaviour of some positive COVID-19 cases at isolation facilities, such as harassing other patients, stealing government property and causing public disturbance by bringing a microphone to sing in front of other patients.

“This is not the time to show your talent as it will disturb other patients. We have to respect the people around us,” the minister said.

Some 102 people were discharged overnight, bringing the number of active cases to 1,673.

Eight people remain in a critical condition and another 25 require intensive care.

Members of the public line up to get their COVID-19 jab at the Indoor Stadium on August 16, 2021. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/ The Scoop

650 fail to turn up for vaccination on Monday

YB Dato Hj Mohd Isham said 650 people failed to attend their vaccination appointments at the Indoor Stadium on Monday.

Over the weekend, the minister had said 438 people did not show up for their COVID-19 jabs.

The public are advised to check the status of their vaccination appointment on the BruHealth app and cancel their bookings if they are unable to get inoculated on the scheduled date.

The ministry is still rescheduling vaccination appointments of those who had their previous bookings cancelled due to a vaccine shortage.

As of Monday, 56 percent of the population have received at least one vaccine dose.

Some 35.6 percent of residents are fully vaccinated after completing their two-shot regimen.