By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Two Kuwaiti women who arrived from Britain have tested positive for a new COVID-19 strain, the first discovery of the more contagious coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom and several other countries, the health ministry spokesman said yesterday. Abdullah Al-Sanad said the two women had undergone PCR tests in Britain that showed they were not infected, but they tested positive after PCR tests were conducted upon arrival at Kuwait airport.

Additional genetic tests carried out found the two women had contracted the new strain of the coronavirus, Sanad said. The ministry of health immediately took all necessary measures including isolating the two patients and placing them in quarantine. Sanad urged the public to continue to observe strict health precautions, especially wearing facemasks, washing hands and staying away from gatherings. A month ago, authorities launched a vaccination campaign using Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

The ministry of health yesterday announced 578 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, raising the total caseload to 158,822. Sanad also announced two deaths in the same period, taking the death toll to 950. Meanwhile, 53 patients are in ICUs on life support, with total cases remaining under treatment at 5,936. Medical authorities conducted 8,845 swab tests over the past 24 hours, taking overall examinations to 1,415,197.

Sanad said the latest statistics on bed occupancy at public hospitals and health institutions show a drop in COVID-19 cases treated in hospitals as well as a drop in cases in intensive care units. “During a certain period last year, occupancy of COVID-19 wards in hospitals reached above 50 percent, but this has dropped to only 7 percent today. Occupancy of ICUs at all hospitals around Kuwait had reached over 40 percent, but today it has dropped to 10 percent only,” stressed Sanad.