BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has registered its lowest weekly coronavirus infections since the Delta-driven second wave began four months ago, plunging 66 percent to 150 cases last week.

New COVID infections had been trending downwards from late October before an 18 percent increase two weeks ago.

The sultanate’s high vaccination coverage appeared to have substantially reduced COVID transmissions, despite easing some movement control restrictions on November 19.

Brunei has the second highest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia with 81.9 percent of the population fully jabbed, behind Singapore’s 87 percent.

In another indication that the outbreak is under control, the average proportion of COVID tests with positive results dropped to the lowest rate of 0.67 percent – the first time the weekly positivity rate fell below 1 in the second wave.

The health ministry administered an average of 3,651 tests a day in the past week.

In the past 24 hours, 16 new coronavirus cases were confirmed, raising the overall tally to 15,202.

Three new clusters were detected at Lee and Soh Trading staff house and two private households.

The number of active cases hit a near four-month low of 265 on Monday, including two in the intensive care unit.

Teenagers start getting their second dose

Some 3,356 teenagers aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated as Brunei began rolling out second COVID vaccine doses for adolescents on Monday, four weeks after their first jab.

Speaking at the daily COVID press briefing, Education Minister YB Dato Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman said 37,089 students have been scheduled to receive their second vaccine dose in the next two weeks at eight vaccination centres nationwide.

A total of 1,112 students have yet to receive their first dose vaccination after missing their appointments, the minister said. 

“There were a lot of reasons [for missed appointments], some were ill, some couldn’t make it for certain reasons. So they are encouraged to get their first vaccine dose and they can go for walk-in vaccinations to speed up the process,” he said.

YB Dato Hj Hamzah also called on teachers who have not been inoculated to get their jabs as soon as possible.

Science College students register to get their second vaccine dose at the Indoor Stadium on Dec 6, 2021. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The government made it mandatory for all teachers and non-teaching staff at schools to get vaccinated, except those who are medically exempted. To date, 98 percent of teachers are double-vaxxed while 99.5 percent have received at least one dose.

The education ministry is also compiling data on students aged 5-11, who will be eligible to receive vaccines against COVID next year.

Out of the 3,356 students who were vaccinated on Monday, over 1,500 students from Maktab Sains Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan College (MSPSBS) and Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College received their jabs at the Indoor Stadium.

Deputy principal of MSPSBS Darlin Sia said 10 of their students have not received their vaccination due to medical reasons.

“We have a few students who needed specialist referrals and there were students who had red [BruHealth] codes or tested positive and they have informed their form teacher for their appointments to be rescheduled,” he said.

Recovered patients can get vaccinated 90 days after Regeneron antibody treatment

During the daily COVID press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said former COVID patients who are not double-vaxxed can enter public venues within 90 days after their Regeneron antibody treatment.

He said employers and managers of public premises should allow recovered COVID patients to enter public venues as long as they show their “Regeneron Treatment Card” and follow other health protocols.

The cards, which can be collected from the National Isolation Centre, verify that previously infected patients are temporarily exempted from COVID-19 vaccination.

Recovered patients are also not required to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen rapid tests within the 90-day period.