BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei will maintain its 12am-4am curfew until at least March 14, the government announced Wednesday following a resurgence of COVID-19 fuelled by the Omicron variant.

During the COVID-19 news conference, Home Affairs Minister YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said public health control measures under the “early endemic phase” will be extended for another month.

This is the second extension of movement restrictions since the sultanate entered the early endemic phase of its COVID recovery plan on December 15.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar said the decision to prolong the early endemic phase was made after considering the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

“This extension also allows more time for the government to ensure cases and bed occupancy rates at isolation centres remain low; increase the coverage of vaccine booster doses and [begin] the provision of vaccines to children aged 5 to 11,” he added.

Brunei is still awaiting the arrival of Pfizer vaccines to start inoculating children by the first quarter of this year.

Earlier this week, the government said it had no plans to re-impose tougher curbs despite the sharp rise in coronavirus infections as residents should learn to live with endemic COVID.

However, borders are expected to remain shut to non-essential travel for at least another month after the government postponed plans to lift the ban on leisure travel last December.

Brunei sees second highest number of daily COVID cases

The health ministry Wednesday detected 441 new coronavirus infections, the second highest daily tally since the pandemic began. All but one of the cases were locally transmitted.

Brunei’s record daily high of 504 COVID cases was set on October 17 during the second wave of infections.

Driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, coronavirus cases are expected to increase even further in the third wave.

However, the government will place greater focus on the number of hospitalisations and critically ill patients as part of its endemic COVID strategy.

Four people are currently under close observation in ICU, including a partially vaccinated 16-year-old and an unvaccinated elderly man, the health minister said at the press briefing.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the other two ICU patients were fully vaccinated with underlying health conditions.

In just eight days, the bed occupancy rate grew from 10.2 percent to 32.6 percent on Wednesday.