BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Daily new coronavirus cases crossed the 200 mark again on Saturday, nearly three weeks after the government imposed a night curfew.

The health ministry reported 229 additional infections in the last 24 hours, ending a five-day streak of cases below 200.

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

Majority (162) of the new cases were unlinked, while two new household clusters were identified.

Asked about the continuing rise in new clusters during the COVID-19 press briefing, the health minister said it was “not a surprise” that clusters were still forming at migrant worker dormitories and among households.

“Before Operasi Pulih was in place, the movement of people was not as restricted. The chain of infection already happened before [the night curfew began],” said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar.

He added that the spread of COVID-19 at the living quarters of foreign workers was worrying but government authorities were monitoring the workers’ well-being.

“It’s not surprising because dormitories have a high density and house a large number of occupants in a limited space,” the minister said.

This week alone, 10 clusters emerged at worker dormitories while nine individual household clusters were detected.

However, the weekly COVID-19 case count has declined 20 percent.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said most of the household clusters were identified through contact tracing from previous cases.

A total of 4,185 infections were linked to households and staff quarters since the night curfew began on October 4.

Brunei has registered 11,562 cases in the second COVID-19 wave, which was largely fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Death toll rises to 53

The health ministry confirmed two more COVID-linked fatalities on Saturday, raising the death toll to 53.

A 72-year-old woman died from a coronavirus-induced lung infection overnight, while the other victim was a 40-year-old man whose cause of death was previously pending an investigation on October 10.

The ministry further said a six-year-old child who died on October 13 was not classified as a COVID-related death.

Among the 2,452 active cases, 24 were in the intensive care unit.

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

Discrepancy between vaccination rate and population size

Addressing a question on the inconsistency of the vaccination coverage and updated population count, the health minister acknowledged that the vaccination rate may not be 100 percent accurate.

He said some foreign nationals who took their jabs in Brunei had returned to their home country, resulting in more people being administered the COVID-19 vaccine than the reported population size.

“When we experienced the second wave, there were visitors stranded here as there were no flights to bring them home.

“They were here for more than a month, so we administered vaccines to them too,” the minister continued.

MoH revised the vaccination rate on Thursday following the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics’ preliminary 2021 census data that showed a declining population from last year.

The census indicated that only 75 percent of Brunei residents aged 18 and above were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but MoH reported that 80 percent of the population had already taken their first jab.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham nevertheless said it was encouraging to see a “surplus of people” getting the vaccine.

To date, 80.7 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose and 56.1 percent completed the full vaccination regimen.