BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Individuals who failed to report their positive antigen rapid test results for COVID-19 may face on-the-spot fines of up to $5,000, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on Wednesday.

Holding the COVID news conference, Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said failure to report positive antigen test results to the ministry’s website is an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Earlier this week, the government announced that the public can now perform self-diagnosis through COVID antigen tests while polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is no longer needed to confirm coronavirus infections.

The new coronavirus testing policy is part of the government’s strategy of living with COVID, relying on the public to exercise personal responsibility and report their antigen test results amid the rapid spread of Omicron.

Explaining the decision to change COVID testing rules to reporters on Tuesday, public health consultant Dr Justin Wong said antigen tests are considered the most suitable for identifying positive cases, given the accessibility of test kits that produce quicker results.

“As we progress towards living with COVID-19, the concept of social responsibility at a personal and community level becomes increasingly important.

“We don’t want to continually use legal mechanisms for testing, although those do play a role. What is most important is that people themselves take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing,” said Dr Wong, who is also head of Disease Control Division at MoH.

He added that antigen tests can be performed more frequently compared to PCR tests, generating faster results that allow individuals to take immediate action, such as isolating themselves to protect others.

Antigen test kits available in Brunei are also validated with a high degree of accuracy and reliability, he said.

Dr Wong went on to say that PCR tests may not be useful in terms of determining the infectiousness of individuals with COVID.

“Even though you have a positive PCR test result, this can happen towards the tail end of infection, and people can remain positive for quite some time of up to several weeks.

“Antigen tests are more useful in controlling transmissions because they are specific in testing for infectiousness,” he continued.

The health ministry has also revised its definition of primary close contacts.

Primary close contacts are individuals living in the same household with a positive case;  colleagues working in the same room with a positive case; those who interacted with a positive case for over 30 minutes at a distance of less than 1 meter in an enclosed space and individuals who were in the same vehicle with a positive case for more than 15 minutes.

The government earlier this month cut the isolation period of primary close contacts from 10 to 5 days, while secondary close contacts are no longer required to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, first-time offenders of the night movement restrictions will be subject to a $500 compound, while anyone found committing subsequent violations will be brought to court from February 14.