BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Health has appointed 12 clinics and healthcare businesses to issue certificates as proof of individuals taking COVID antigen rapid tests (ART).

The designated clinics will administer antigen tests for any individual who requires certified ART test results for entry into public venues, Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Known as ART certification centres, the 12 clinics and healthcare companies will start ART testing from December 1.

The centres include Guardian Health and Beauty, Vitaliv Health and Wellness Clinic, Dr Prema Clinic, Crystal Image Enterprise, M Clinic, ER Clinic, Chua & Arif Specialist Clinic, Dr Amir Clinic, UNI Clinic, Lee Clinic, Kosi Clinical Lab and Panaga Health Centre.

The prices of each certified ART test range from $7.50 to $20.

As part of measures in shifting to endemic COVID, Brunei made it mandatory for all fully vaccinated civil servants to take antigen tests at least once a fortnight.

The government pays the ART kits for fully jabbed civil servants and those who are medically exempt from COVID vaccination, but employees who are “unvaccinated by choice or for personal reasons” must bear the costs of ART testing.

Private employers are also expected to cover the costs of the self-test kits for their double-vaxxed workers.

Unvaccinated employees in the public and private sectors are allowed to return to workplaces on December 1, but will be required to undergo ART tests every two days.

Government guidelines state that “high-risk workers” such as retail staff and employees in the food services, construction and manufacturing industries should perform antigen tests “more frequently”, with a suggested period of twice a week.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said widespread use of ART kits in the community is one of Brunei’s preparations towards the endemic phase of its COVID recovery plan.

MoH has already approved 32 ART kits to improve access of the COVID screening tool.

Antigen rapid tests usually take 10-15 minutes to detect an active coronavirus infection, though they are not as sensitive as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The minister further said that certified ART test results are valid for two days in Brunei.

The validity period on the certificate is also subject to the rules of other countries that require travellers to show proof of a negative test result, he added.

Today’s coronavirus numbers

Thirty-five new COVID cases were detected overnight, raising the cumulative confirmed infections to 15,093.

Daily coronavirus infections have stayed under 100 since November 6, but the weekly case count rose 18 percent after the country eased public health control measures during the COVID transition phase.

Among the 487 active cases, four remained in a critical condition.