BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei saw a steadying of new COVID-19 cases last week, with new infections rising just 1.6 percent.

The weekly coronavirus tally hit 251 from January 17-23, up from 247 the week prior.

Community cases accounted for 66 percent of all new infections over the past seven days, while the other 84 cases were imported.

Holding the COVID press briefing on Monday, the health minister said most of the local cases were linked to household clusters while some were workplace transmissions.

YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said the majority of new cases were people who were fully vaccinated and displayed mild symptoms.

“We don’t have to panic or worry too much about the number [of new cases]. What’s important here is we need to look at the hospitalisation [rate],” he said.

Despite an increase in the weekly proportion of people testing positive for coronavirus from 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent, the bed utilisation rate declined over the past week.

The bed occupancy rate stood at 9.2 percent on Monday, compared to 10.3 percent at the start of last week.

No COVID patients are currently in the intensive care unit.

The countries of origin for imported COVID-19 cases from January 18-24, 2022. Graphic: Ministry of Health

While Brunei has recorded at least 19 imported cases of the Omicron variant, there have been no reported cases of community transmission so far.

The health minister said authorities are still awaiting genome sequencing results to see if Omicron has started to spread outside quarantine centres.

YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said the public should not panic even if there Omicron cases are detected in the community.

“We know that it is highly contagious but causes mild symptoms. With our vaccination rate at over 90%, inshaAllah the symptoms will be [mild].”

Studies have indicated that Omicron may be less deadly as it is more likely to infect the throat than the lungs.

The minister added that the public need to continue complying with health protocols and should take their COVID booster shot once they are eligible.

“Based on findings from abroad, those who are fully vaccinated can reduce their risk [of severe symptoms], but booster shots offer 90% [protection against COVID].

“A lot of countries have changed their vaccination policies to consider three doses as fully vaccinated,” he continued.

As of Sunday, 37.2 percent of the population has received a booster jab.

Cumulative confirmed COVID cases have reached 16,148, while the death toll stands at 58.