The Ministry of Health building located at Commonwealth Drive. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Five new positive cases of COVID-19 were identified in the country following preliminary tests conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) recently, bringing to a total of 11 people as of March 11.

This new development was announced on Wednesday during a press conference at MoH’s Al-Afiah hall headed by the Minister of Health, Minister of Finance and Economy (MoFE) and the Minister of Home Affairs (MoHA).

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar shared that the individuals are currently in stable condition, afebrile (not feverish) and do not require any breathing assistance.

In light of this recent development, MoH is currently conducting a contact investigation for the new cases confirmed.

(L-R): Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong, Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar and Minister of Finance and Economy II YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah in a press conference. Image: Analisa Amu

The minister also said that a Quarantine Order under the Infectious Disease Act Chapter 204 has been issued to all contacts of the cases.

As of 2pm on March 11, over 100 individuals were sampled for COVID-19.

“66 of them have been tested and the remainder is still waiting for results,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 laboratory tests usually take up four to six hours prior to results.

The Quarantine Order, he added, has been issued to 80 contacts of the confirmed cases.

Case details
The new cases include those who attended the religious gathering with the patient zero in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently as well as their close contacts.

Source: Ministry of Health

Cases 7 and 8, who are 34 years old and 32 years old respectively, attended the religious event and are from the same family who travelled together and returned to Brunei on March 4 via Malaysia Airlines flight MH2594 from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, Sarawak.

Case 7 has not shown any signs of infection while Case 8 started to develop symptoms on March 10.

“Contact investigation for these cases are still ongoing,” said YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham.

Similarly, Case 9 attended the religious event however, returned on a different Air Asia flight AK3541 from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, Sarawak.

The 59-year-old started experiencing a sore throat on March 5 and had remained at home since then.

Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong and Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar in a press conference. Image: Analisa Amu

For Case 10, the individual is the wife of Case 3 aged 33-years-old while Case 11 is the wife of Case 9 and is 52 years old.

MoH reported that Case 10 has not shown any symptoms while Case 11 developed coughing on March 10.

“Both cases have no travel history to Kuala Lumpur and contact investigation for the two is still ongoing,” said YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham.

Advice for the public
Members of the public are to avoid direct contact with other people through handshakes and to avoid going out of the country if it is not necessary.

Additionally, mass gatherings are discouraged however in the event of weddings, personal hygiene should be practiced.

A sign on display at Guardian, Manggis stating no stock for face masks, hand sanitizers and alcohol solution. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Individuals with signs of infections are not encouraged to attend, said the minister, urging the public to be socially responsible.

Furthermore, the public is advised not to panic in the event of more cases to be identified following ongoing investigations.

Those who may be involved in contact investigation are required to co-operate with the officers on duty, said the minister.

“There is no evidence that points to widespread community
transmission at the moment and the situation is under control,” added YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham.

MoH is continuously monitoring the situation and will inform the public of any developments.

“The ministry will ensure that all preventative and control measures are undertaken as required.”

Source: Ministry of Health

For further information and latest developments, the public can visit MoH’s website at www.gov.bn, call the Health Advice Line at 2381380 or 2381383 during office hours or 148.

Additional quarantine centres
To further contain the virus from spreading, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) through the Brunei Darussalam National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) will work closely with MoH by providing an additional quarantine centre.

Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong announced that the centre will be at Sports Games Village in Berakas.

“It will be used to house contacts that are under the Quarantine Order for 14 days and provided with basic necessities including food and drinks.”

“InsyaAllah this will be implemented soon,” he said, adding that the centre can accommodate up to 300 individuals.

Panic buying and price control
Following the announcement of the confirmed COVID-19 cases, irrational panic purchasing and hoarding of necessities have transpired.

On his part, Minister of Finance and Economy II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said this includes the procurement of household essentials, food items, face masks and hand sanitisers.

Minister of Finance and Economy II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah in a press conference. Image: Analisa Amu

“The public are advised to be considerate to other customers who are truly in need such as those who are unwell, caregivers and frontliners, so as to enable them to acquire the required items.”

In addition, MoFE assured that the country’s rice stock with the Treasury Department is sufficient to meet the requirement.

“Thus the public are advised not to purchase rice in big quantities more than the usual requirement.”

The ministry also called for the public to respect the rationing of such measures that are put into place by retailers on a temporary basis, as the basic food items namely rice and sugar and other required items are in high demand at the moment, added YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin.

The recent incident has further caused the increasing prices of certain items such as face masks and hand sanitizers.

Beras wangi has recently sold out at SKH, Sengkurong. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

As of Wednesday, the MoFE minister said the Department of Competition and Consumer Affair (DCCA) has received complaints from 31 consumers.

“To enhance price transparency and for public reference, prices of specific face masks and hand sanitizers from several business premises have been uploaded to the PenggunaBijak mobile app and the DCCA website.”

The DCCA and Treasury Department of MoFE will continuously monitor the situation in the market and seek business cooperation while support to address the panic buying behaviour.

To share concerns related to consumer issues, the public can contact the 24-hour Consumer Hotline under Talian Darussalam 123.

Members of the public can contact the Treasury Department at 2383666 ext 7788 during office hours for matters related to rice and sugar supplies.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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