KARACHI, Pakistan 

Pakistan on Tuesday reported its first cases of the new, highly contagious coronavirus variant detected in the United Kingdom earlier this year, health authorities confirmed.

At least three COVID-19 cases were detected among returnees from the UK in the southern port city of Karachi, the worst-hit by the pandemic, said the provincial Health Ministry.

“Twelve samples of UK returnees were taken for genotyping out of which six were positive and three showed the new variant of the virus in the first phase,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

“The genotyping showed 95 per cent match of the new variant from the UK. These samples will go through another phase of genotyping,” it added.

“The contact tracing of these patients is in process and their contacts are being isolated,” it went on to say.

Pakistan has already banned all UK flights following the emergence of the variant virus.

Several other countries have taken similar measures. However, there is yet no evidence that suggests the mutation is more deadly.

Meanwhile, the country reported 1,776 fresh infections on Tuesday, pushing the overall caseload to 475,085.

Another, 63 patients lost their lives to the novel virus, bringing the death toll to 9,992.

Some 425,494 patients have so far recovered.

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