BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Brunei reported no local COVID-19 infection cases on Thursday, marking one year without local COVID-19 transmission.
After the first COVID-19 case were reported on March 9, 2020, Brunei, with a population of about 450,000, has maintained strict border control and travel regulations to contain the spread of the virus from overseas travellers despite experiencing a sharp drop in international tourists.
The country has also imposed strict mass-gathering ban, carried out technology-based contact tracing and rigorous quarantine measures to keep locally-transmitted cases at bay.
The Brunei government kicked off the National Vaccination Program on April 3 this year, with 17,776 people having received COVID-19 vaccines by May 5.
The country granted emergency use authorization for several COVID-19 vaccines, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Sinopharm vaccine.
"At present, the administration of COVID-19 vaccine is still being implemented for Phase One, consisting of frontliners, students studying abroad and senior citizens aged 60 and above," Brunei's Ministry of Health said.
"Priority is given to frontliners and especially the elderly because frontliners have a higher risk of being infected with COVID-19 and the elderly have a higher risk of getting more severe complications of COVID-19 infection," the ministry added.
The health ministry continues to encourage the public to join the national vaccination program, saying that although it is not mandatory to obtain the vaccine, the people and residents of Brunei are still exposed to the risk of infection.
"Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective measure to protect oneself, our family and the society from the harmful effects of COVID-19," the ministry said.
"In the medium and long term, the more people are vaccinated, the higher the level of immunity of the population in this country against the disease becomes. This in turn will be able to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on public and community health," the ministry added.
Despite 365 days free of local confirmed cases, the Brunei government has been finding infections among limited travellers arriving in the country.
The country reported one new imported case of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the national tally to 229. With the detection of this case, a total of 88 imported cases have been confirmed since the last local infection case on May 6, 2020.
According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, Case 229 is a 20-year-old woman who arrived in the country from Europe via Singapore on April 23. She has symptoms of high fever, cough and losing the sense of smell and taste since April 30. Investigation and contact tracing have confirmed no close contacts for this case as she was quarantined upon arrival in the country.
The new case is being treated and monitored at the National Isolation Center with the other six active cases, who are all in a stable condition.
There have been three deaths and 219 recovered patients reported from COVID-19 so far in Brunei.