Brunei Darussalam will now implement a 14-day self-isolation at home for recovered patients discharged from the National Isolation Centre (NIC) in Tutong as an added precautionary measure, following the discovery of a patient who showed symptoms and retested positive after being discharged.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a press conference yesterday explained that the current Standard of Procedure (SOP) sees patients tested twice within a 24-hour span prior to being discharged.
“The time span must be 24 hours apart and it’s better if it is extended a little more,” the minister said.
He explained that the patient who retested positive had been tested twice, with both results testing negative. “We still don’t know how it happened. Reports have been made in China, Korea and even Japan on this, so what we want to know now is whether it is the remains of the virus or a reactivation – which are two different things,” said the minister, noting that “another possibility is a reinfection, but that is unlikely as the patient did not have exposure to anyone else.”
He said the scientific world is still trying to understand how the virus works. As COVID-19 is a novel virus the Ministry of Health (MoH) is closely monitoring those who have been allowed to go home.
The MoH will carry out re-swabs on patients further along the self-isolation at home period, so that they are able to accurately catch whether there are those that will test positive or not.
“We’re also learning that a portion of those who have been infected did not produce antibodies, which is interesting to know – how one person has antibodies, while another does not. This is also something we don’t have the answer to,” he said.
The scientific committee is currently learning from each other, the minister said, adding that he will be able to share more on the matter once more information is obtained from China’s and Korea’s experiences with the outbreak.
The minister also informed that the individual who retested positive did not venture out of home, but did come in contact with family members living under the same roof.
The MoH has already conducted swabbing on each household member, and they have been ordered to undergo 14-days quarantine.
“For instance, if one of the families went to work, then we’ll have to do another contact tracing and re-swab everyone again,” the minister said. “Moreover, because the patient is the same person, the total number of infected is still 136.”
The patient, who was discharged 12 days earlier, was retested after showing symptoms during the self-isolation at home period, and tested positive.
“That is why we have to be careful before we change or lift any restrictions. As I keep saying, this is a novel virus and while the public may be excited to note the constant zero new cases we are experiencing, there is still a lot of things that need to be learnt about the virus,” the minister said. This includes how the virus acts in the long and short terms.
“Indeed, people see that we have flattened the curve as there are no new cases, and are asking what else we are waiting for. There are many things to wait for and this is one of them. There are a lot of precautions that still need to be taken,” the minister said.