BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – A high vaccination rate will not be enough for Brunei to lift its partial lockdown as healthcare capacity will also be a key deciding factor in the country’s path towards living with endemic COVID-19, the health minister said on Friday.

Apart from reaching the 80 percent double vaccination target by the end of this year, the healthcare system must not be overwhelmed with a potential rise in severe cases, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said in his COVID-19 press briefing.

Responding to a question on what is required for Brunei to reopen its economy, the minister said it is vital for the country to hit the vaccination goal and ensure the healthcare system is not stretched thin.

“Once we reach the 80 percent, we don’t want [to see] severe symptoms that will result in positive cases being hospitalised, especially in the ICU,” he said.

In the country’s move towards a “new normal”, he added that the government will monitor whether the healthcare system can cope with an increase in COVID-19 patients who are critically ill.

The number of ICU cases is currently under control at the National Isolation Centre, the minister said.

On Friday, 24 people were warded in the ICU, down from 28 a day earlier.

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

Earlier this week, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the government will not strive for zero coronavirus cases to restart the economy but learn to live with an endemic COVID-19 instead.

“With the [emergence of] the Delta variant in the second wave, to reach zero infections might be difficult. That is why we always mention ‘the new normal’. “With the new normal, it means that we treat the virus as endemic,” he said on Friday.

The minister further said that multiple task forces have been set up to discuss strategies on ramping up the vaccination coverage and devising plans on easing public health control measures.

Brunei has been under a partial lockdown for 11 weeks after experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began.

While the sultanate has hit the 80 percent threshold for first dose vaccinations, a night curfew is still in place until October 31 as the number of coronavirus cases has not stabilised yet.

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

Number of cases drop 20% in past week

New infections fell 20 percent in the past week after a record high of 1,787 additional cases in the week prior.

Brunei averaged 203 daily cases in the last seven days, compared to 255 in the previous week.

The sultanate also recorded its highest number of seven COVID-related deaths in a week.

In addition, the weekly ratio of people testing positive declined to 4.42 percent as opposed to 4.85 in the preceding week.

The health ministry confirmed 130 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including an imported infection from Limbang after a transport worker tested positive during his cross-border trip.

Seven new clusters have emerged in the past 24 hours, with three linked to the living quarters of migrant workers at Strageco, Sumayanur Sdn Bhd, and Mal Star Enterprise.

There are now 2,501 active cases, while the cumulative confirmed infections reached 11,672.

The minister said 75 percent of the beds are currently occupied at the government’s isolation facilities, while about 500 people with mild symptoms were isolating at home.