Gambia records first two cases of UK COVID-19 variant

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FILE PHOTO: People move in the street in Banjul

BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia has recorded its first two cases of the highly infectious coronavirus variant first found in Britain, its health authorities said on Thursday, in what appears to be the first confirmation of its presence in Africa.

The cases could hamper the former British colony's efforts to contain a surge in infection rates to near record levels. It has so far recorded around 3,890 cases and 126 deaths, data compiled by Reuters shows.

Director of Health Services Mustapha Bittaye said one of the patients was a 34-year-old Gambian man who had travelled from Britain. The other was an 82-year-old Gambian woman.

"We are tracing vigorously the origins of transmission," he said.

In a weekly report on Tuesday, the World Health Organization listed 50 countries where the variant had been detected around the world - none of them in Africa.

Across Africa, a second coronavirus wave is infecting twice as many people per day as at the height of last year's first wave and has yet to peak, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Bill Berkrot)