New variant no cause for alarm: Minister

Azlan Othman & James Kon

The public should not panic over Omicron cases detected in neighbouring countries, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham bin Haji Jaafar yesterday in daily press conference.

“We are now able to sequence the COVID-19 genes locally. If there is Omicron in the midst, we will inform the public,” the minister said, adding that to date, all cases have been of the Delta variant.

He also said, “In the past week, quite a number of countries have detected Omicron in patients. But based on the findings of these countries, with South Africa being the first to detect it, the symptoms that have shown up are mild. The same goes for European countries, where there is no significant impact on the healthcare system.”

The minister noted that the new variant has been detected in over 30 countries, thus, to control the spread, vaccination and adherence to standard operating procedures are the best defences against the virus.

“The Omicron development is still at its early stage,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham said, “there is no need to shut down everything.”

The minister added that the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently studying the effect of Omicron on the population and it may take a few weeks to obtain a better picture of the situation.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar. PHOTO: JAMES KON

Meanwhile, on booster shot uptake among the elderly, the minister said some 2,355 have taken the jab, which he believed to be important “not only against Omicron but for all variants of COVID-19 as vaccine immunity wanes after six months”.

The booster programme is currently being rolled out in phases, with priority on frontliners, followed by those aged 50 and above.

Meanwhile, Brunei detected 10 new COVID-19 cases and two new clusters involving six cases yesterday. The total number of confirmed cases in the country is at 15,142.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “There is one additional case to an existing cluster while three new cases are being investigated to determine the source of infection. Two new clusters were detected including TM Majeed Cluster which is a housing cluster for the company’s employee accommodation.”

Four clusters were declared closed following no new cases for 28 days. They are Cluster 11689, Cluster 11721, Cluster 13459 and HTB Biltech Sdn Bhd Cluster. The current total active clusters are 122.

The minister said, “Forty-one cases have recovered today bringing the total number of recoveries to 14,647, and there are 395 active cases.”

One case is in Category 5 receiving treatment at the intensive care unit, who also requires artificial ventilation as well as an additional heart/lung machine (ECMO). There is one case in Category 4 requiring oxygen assistance and is under close monitoring.

In the past 24 hours, 3,627 samples were tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus bringing the total number of laboratory tests conducted since January 2020 to 631,475 tests.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “On December 2, 1,002 individuals received the COVID-19 vaccine, which means that under the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, 404,070 individuals have received the first dose of the vaccine, or 94 per cent of the total population.

“Meanwhile, 350,223 individuals have completed the vaccination schedule, bringing the rate of fully-vaccinated to 81.4 per cent.”