James Kon, Izah Azahari & Fadley Faisal
The Sultanate recorded 5,420 COVID-19 recovery cases yesterday, bringing the total number of recoveries to 83,761 cases.
A total of 2,278 new cases have been detected, bringing the national tally of confirmed cases to 114,371. Of this, 2,101 cases were recorded via antigen rapid test (ART) results uploaded to the BruHealth app, while 177 were from the 1,685 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratory tests performed over the past 24 hours.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said this at the press conference yesterday, adding that the total number of active cases stands at 30,440.
Four COVID-19 deaths were recorded, two of which were categorised as being COVID-19 related. Of the two, one was unvaccinated, while the other was partially vaccinated.
The minister extended his deepest condolences to the families, adding “May their souls receive blessings and be placed among the pious.”
An additional four cases have been placed in Category 4, bringing the total number of cases to 21, while seven remain in Category 5. The total number of Categories 4 and 5 cases at present is 10.8 per cent of the treatment capacity at the National Isolation Centre (NIC).
The bed occupancy rate at isolation centres nationwide is 7.1 per cent, with 252 active cases placed at isolation centres and hospitals. Some 30,188 positive cases are undergoing home self-isolation.
As of March 13, the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme recorded 58.6 per cent of the populace as having received the booster shot, while over 94 per cent have received the first and second dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) detected one violation during Operasi Peralihan on Monday.
Jong Kui Foh was issued a compound fine for violating the stay-at-home directive from midnight to 4am in Brunei-Muara District.
The issue of administering alternative booster vaccines other than Pfizer or Moderna was raised during the press conference, to which Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “The vaccines used in the Sultanate is evaluated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Committee – via peer review journal papers and from the manufacturers themselves, not solely the companies.
The peer review journals indicate that global experts have assessed the vaccines – with regards to how the study was carried out to detect any biases, and whether the results are confirmed or merely estimations.
Based on research and peer review journals, the technical committee is confident in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“I understand there are many who wish to receive a Sinopharm booster shot. They can request for it and consideration will be given, so long as they understand this is not the recommended vaccine,” the minister said.
Other countries are administering Sinopharm or AstraZeneca booster shots possibly “because they have been given the data needed. However, as for the Sultanate, the MoH follows the peer review journals and the data it has received”, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.
“What is important to note is that the booster shot is not forced upon anyone, although it is encouraged,” the minister said.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham also provided clarity on matters related to the requirement of undergoing an RT-PCR test before travelling abroad, explaining that “health and travel protocols depend on each country and airline”.
“Most countries do not require travellers who formerly tested COVID-positive, to undergo an RT-PCR,” he said, adding that nothing can be done should a country or airline stipulate otherwise.
The ongoing upgrade of the BruHealth app will allow for the issuance of certificates stating there is no need for an individual to perform a RT-PCR test.
“The MoH has assigned the Jerudong Park Medical Centre and Panaga Health Centre to issue this certificate to individuals by request,” the minister added.
Also in attendance was Permanent Secretary at the MoH Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin.