BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry recorded 22 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, marking the lowest daily case count since August 8.

New infections have been falling steadily over the past two weeks, with 433 COVID cases reported last week compared to the weekly high of 1,880 in mid-October.

With declining cases and the increasing double dose vaccination rate of 71 percent, Brunei plans to restart its economy on Friday after battling its most serious Delta-driven COVID outbreak for over three months.

During the daily COVID press briefing, the health minister said the National Isolation Centre is prepared to treat more intensive care patients in anticipation of a spike in cases when movement control restrictions have been relaxed.

As the sultanate is set to enter the transition phase of its pandemic exit plan, YB Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said the biggest challenge is the shortage of healthcare workers.

“What’s important is our preparedness to mobilise manpower when the need arises. It would be a challenge once we restart [other healthcare services] during the endemic phase,” he said.

The number of ICU patients has decreased in the past two weeks, with five people in critical condition on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours, two new clusters were detected – Serikandi Jerudong staff house and a private household cluster.

There are 480 active cases and the cumulative confirmed COVID infections hit 14,291.

MCYS spells out transition phase guidelines for sports facilities

All sports facilities will resume operations this Friday but childcare and special needs centres will remain closed when Brunei enters the COVID transition phase, the minister of culture, youth and sports said.

Spelling out the transition phase guidelines during the press briefing, YB Dato Paduka Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin said fitness centres, golf clubs, sports facilities, museums, libraries and senior citizen centres can operate at 50 percent capacity.

The reopening of sports and recreational facilities is part of Brunei’s plan in shifting towards living with an endemic COVID.

Only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to enter public venues during the transition phase, including sports facilities.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said there will be no time constraints for individuals who use sports facilities, except swimming pools that are limited to two hours per person.

Singles and doubles are allowed to be played for all non-contact sports, while only training is permitted for team sports with not more than 15 people.

Contact sports are allowed for training sessions and must not involve sparring.

However, organised sports or competitive matches are still banned.

Fitness enthusiasts during a workout at DUDGYM Fitness Studio on June 19, 2020. Photo: Yusri Adanan/The Scoop

Those who wish to visit fitness centres and golf courses must be registered members and pre-bookings are required. It is also mandatory for players to wear face masks at golf courses.

For bowling centres, each alley can accommodate four users who must wear face coverings at all times.

The minister added that museums, public exhibition galleries and libraries will also resume operations on Friday with shorter opening hours from 8am to 2pm.

The elderly can also participate in indoor and outdoor activities at senior citizen centres, while complying with health protocols such as wearing face masks, avoiding physical contact and food should be prepared and stored in containers.

Over 6,000 youth volunteers involved in fight against COVID

A total of 6,830 youth volunteers signed up to support the government in its COVID pandemic response, said YB Dato Hj Aminuddin.

He said the youth volunteers were deployed to 90 locations nationwide.

Since food ration distribution centres started operations on August 9, volunteers have delivered food to 103,793 people serving quarantine orders in 18,552 homes.