Kuwait registers first cases of new virus variant

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A Kuwaiti passenger holding his luggage walks by the police and civil aviation personnel upon his arrival from Amman at Kuwait Airport, in Kuwait City

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait has registered its first cases of a more contagious coronavirus variant in two Kuwaiti women who had been in Britain, the health ministry spokesman told state news agency KUNA on Tuesday.

They had polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before departing for Kuwait but PCR tests upon arrival yielded positive results and further checks showed they had the variant B1.1.7, the spokesman said without specifying the point of departure.

Kuwait had on Jan. 6 suspended direct commercial flights to and from Britain until further notice, shortly after lifting a 12-day closure of air, land and sea borders over concerns about the spread of the new variant.

The Gulf Arab state has recorded a total of 158,244 COVID-19 infections and 948 deaths since the coronavirus outbreak.

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Yousef Saba in Dubai; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)