Friday, February 23, 2024
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No school clusters as claimed in viral message: Minister

Izah Azahari

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar yesterday debunked claims, spreading virally across social media platforms, of the existence of alleged COVID-19 school clusters.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has received no such information, he said, adding that if there are indeed infected children, they would have been infected by their family members, therefore it would not be categorised as a school cluster.

With regard to whether the government will impose restrictions following the detection of the highly-contagious Omicron variant in the Sultnate, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham explained that further research by means of genomic sequencing was carried out to compare the locally-spread Omicron variant and imported variant. The findings showed that the local variant differs from that found in Europe, he said.

“So we know that the variant did not come from the imported cases,” he said, further revealing that there are differences between the local Omicron variant strain and the one in Europe.

The minister called for public cooperation in reporting individuals bringing in prohibited goods through unknown smuggling trails.

“If we were to go back to, between November 2021 and now, it is very likely that the variant entered the country in December or January,” he said.

Of importance in the nation’s preparation for this is the vaccination rate (which has now reached over 90 per cent), he said, before emphasising on the COVID-19 booster shots.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin at the press conference. PHOTO: SYAHMI HASSAN

“The government has ensured the availability of booster shots. However, in the past few weeks, the booster intake has decreased. We should already be reaching 70 per cent by the middle or end of this month, however, we are still at 40 per cent.

“I urge the public, especially those eligible for the booster, to get it. Those who are unvaccinated, get vaccinated as soon as possible as the Omicron variant is known to spread easily,” he said.

In other countries, the variant had spread rapidly – in a matter of a week. Thankfully in Brunei, although the number of cases is increasing, it is not as high as expected, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.

“In the coming days or within a week, the cases may increase further, but what is most important is that Category 4 and Category 5 are still under control, in terms of not compromising the healthcare system,” he said, adding that the populace must continue to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“Omicron has already overtaken Delta as the dominant variant worldwide. With the recent statement issued on the infection, it is just a matter of time before Omicron will be the dominant variant here too,” he said.

The Sultanate recorded 133 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, bringing the national tally of confirmed cases to 16,691. Of the 133 cases, 129 are local, and four, imported.

Twenty-nine cases have recovered, bringing the number of recoveries to 15,993. The total number of active cases stands at 596, while the bed occupancy rate at isolation centres nationwide is 11.4 per cent. There are no cases in categories 4 or 5.

As of February 1, 94.8 per cent of the populace had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 94 per cent had received two doses, and 40.5 per cent have had their booster shot, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.

Meanwhile, no violations of the nationwide stay-at-home directive, between midnight and 4am, were detected on Tuesday.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin also attended the press conference.