BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Almost 70 percent of beds in Brunei’s five makeshift isolation facilities are occupied, with the health ministry preparing another temporary healthcare centre in anticipation of more COVID cases.

The health minister said on Sunday that another building has been identified to house more patients with mild symptoms and might be used once all the designated isolation facilities reached their current capacity of over 2,000.

Adding a new isolation facility will increase the combined bed capacity to more than 3,000, said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar, who did not disclose the location of the facility during his press briefing.

Rising coronavirus infections have pushed the number of active cases to new highs over the past week.

A total of 2,170 active cases were recorded on Sunday, a day after Brunei saw its highest daily COVID-19 tally of 326 since the pandemic began.

New infections fell 22 percent to 254 in the past 24 hours, the fourth time cases surpassed 200 this week.

Asked what the ministry would do once all beds are filled up, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said another alternative is allowing asymptomatic patients to quarantine at home.

“At the moment, we prefer them to be isolated at makeshift facilities, so that it is easier to control [their movement],” he added.

Earlier this month, the health ministry scrapped home isolation for COVID-19 patients after 47 people were found breaking quarantine orders.

Source: Ministry of Health

Three COVID-19 hotspots identified

The health ministry identified three mukim that had a high number of coronavirus cases in the last seven days, including Mukim Gadong A and Mukim Berakas A in Brunei-Muara district and Mukim Kuala Belait.

These sub-districts were said to have reported more than 80 infections from September 18-24.

Three new clusters were also reported on Sunday – two Malaysian-registered vessels named Permata Leo and Salvin Princess, as well as six cases that were detected during a four-day testing sweep at Kampung Pengkalan Gadong.

There are now 106 active clusters, while the cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 6,540.

Some 138 people were discharged overnight, taking the COVID-19 recovery rate to 66 percent.

Eight critically ill patients have been placed on ventilator and another 31 cases require oxygen supplementation.

Responding to a question whether any severe COVID-19 cases have made full recoveries, the minister said some ICU patients are on the mend, including those who required heart-lung machines.

He added that a combination of drugs is used to treat patients with severe symptoms, including antiviral and cancer drugs.

A member of the public receives his vaccine certificate after his COVID-19 vaccinations at the Indoor Stadium on July 5, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

Over 60% of population partially vaccinated

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said all first-dose bookings that were put on hold due to a vaccine shortage have been rescheduled.

Brunei’s vaccination drive has picked up the pace since its restart on September 16, with 63,353 people getting inoculated since then.

On average, the country administered 6,854 jabs a day over the past week.

The health ministry is aiming to accelerate vaccinations to 10,000 doses per day and get 70 percent of the population fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

As of Saturday, 60.7 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Some 39.3 percent of residents have completed their two-shot regimen.

A total of 2,790 people failed to show up for their vaccination appointments in the past seven days, the minister said.

Individuals who are unable to attend their vaccination appointment are advised to cancel the booking and allow others to reserve slots.

Couples banned from holding wedding solemnisation ceremonies at home

The government will no longer allow nikah ceremonies to be held at home from September 27, as part of additional measures to curb the spread of COVID-19

Marriage solemnisation is only permitted at the Office of the Registry of Muslim Marriages, Divorces, Annulments and Ruju’.

In a press statement issued by the Syariah Courts on Monday, a maximum of six people are allowed to attend the nikah ceremony — bride, groom, wali or guardian, two witnesses and marriage registrar.

Families are not allowed to attend the ceremony, which should be completed within 20 minutes.

No other wedding events can be held, including delivering gifts.

The announcement comes after reports of families organising weddings with staggered arrival times at home or at separate venues.

This story was updated at 9.13pm on September 27, 2021 to include the Syariah Courts’ press statement on guidelines for wedding solemnisation ceremonies.