Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham speaking to the media during a press conference at MoH’s Al-Afiah hall. Image: Rafidah Hamit

The Ministry of Health (MoH) of Brunei Darussalam on Tuesday announced five other cases of COVID-19, equalling to six confirmed cases in the sultanate.

The individuals were identified through preliminary tests and are close contacts of the first patient, a 53-year-old retiree who returned from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 3 via Miri, Sarawak through AirAsia flight AK5651, along with three other friends.

“The five affected experienced mild symptoms such as coughing and flu,” said the Health Minister Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar. during a press conference at MoH’s Al-Afiah hall.

They consist of the patient’s wife who is 46-years-old as well as their two children who are 12 and 5 years old respectively, shared the minister in a press conference.

He added that the children did not regularly attend school due to their special needs and have not gone in the past week.

Meanwhile, the remaining two include one of the three friends who travelled with the first patient, aged 61 and his 30-year-old son.

They are currently placed at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong, in stable condition and are not experiencing fever and do not require respiratory aids.

Patient Zero

According to information provided by the MoH, the first patient and his friends were travelling for a religious event that was participated by more than 100 individuals from Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

The patient also went on a day trip to Miri, Sarawak on March 6 and stopped by Kampong Sungai Teraban mosque for Friday prayers.

After experiencing symptoms the same night, he sought treatment at the Emergency Department of the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital on March 8.

“A nasopharyngeal swab was taken on the patient to test for COVID-19,” said the minister, adding that the patient also suffers from a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

He was tested positive for the virus following initial laboratory tests on March 9 and brought to the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.

The minister revealed that around 90 Bruneians attended the same event in Malaysia.

“Half of them have successfully been traced while the remainder is urged to come forward and contact the ministry.”

Residents of Kampong Sungai Teraban are also urged to contact MoH if they are feeling unwell.

“As he was the first patient in the country, samples have been sent to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Reference Laboratory in Singapore for further testing,” said the minister.

Preventive measures
YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said the ministry will continue to carry out contract tracing and further action will be taken in accordance with existing guidelines.

“The ministry would also like to clarify that close contact of each case is defined as those living in the same house as a confirmed case or those who have been in close proximity of less than one meter for 30 minutes or more within the area or in an enclosed space.”

He said that the risk of transient or casual contact such as a brief meeting in a public vehicle is considered to be low.

“Currently, there are 22 individuals in quarantine,” said the health minister, adding that there are no community spreads so far.

“The situation is under control. We have enough capacity of COVID-19 test kits and are currently ordering more.”

The minister said that the doctor who treated the first patient was tested negative and is currently being quarantined.

He reminded the public to stay indoors if they are feeling unwell and to wear a mask if they needed to be out in public.

On preventive measures at the Sg Tujoh border between Brunei and Malaysia, the MoH is working together with the Ministry of Health in Miri as well as Kuala Lumpur to carry out contact tracing.

“We will still maintain temperature checks and encourage everyone to be honest about their travel plans.”

MoH added that legal actions can be taken against anyone who disregards the Quarantine Order under Section 204 that requires individuals to undergo mandatory isolation and health monitoring.

Advice to the public
Members of the public are encouraged to refer to the ministry for information regarding the virus or patients as well as other reliable sources.

“If you are feeling unwell, please visit the Flu Centre located in front of the Emergency Department of RIPAS Hospital or contact our hotline to know more about the necessary measures.”

“We urge everyone to be more sensible; stop forwarding fake news and there is no need to panic-buy items at the grocery store,” added YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham.

The public can contact the MoH hotline at 2381383 or 2381380 during office hours or Talian Darussalam at 123.

School shutdown
In light of the COVID-19 situation in the country, the Ministry of Education (MoE) along with the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) have changed the dates for school holidays effective today, March 11.

The MoE press statement states that this includes primary and secondary schools, colleges, form six centres and Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE).

Schools under MoRA are also affected by this change including private and international schools around the country.

While the students are on break until March 30, teachers and staff are encouraged to clean their classrooms and schools.

“MoE through the respective schools have prepared a Business Continuity Plan should the school session be delayed,” the statement read.

Teachers, school staff and officers under the ministry are advised not to travel during the school holidays and to maintain personal hygiene.



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