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Assessing transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 in England

  • Volz, E
  • Mishra, S
  • Chand, M
  • Barrett, JC
  • Johnson, R
  • Geidelberg, L
  • Hinsley, WR
  • Laydon, DJ
  • Dabrera, G
  • O'Toole, Á
  • Amato, R
  • Ragonnet-Cronin, M
  • Harrison, I
  • Jackson, B
  • Ariani, CV
  • Boyd, O
  • Loman, NJ
  • McCrone, JT
  • Gonçalves, S
  • Jorgensen, D
  • And 15 more
Publication Date
Mar 18, 2021
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, designated a Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC) by Public Health England1, originated in the UK in late Summer to early Autumn 20202. Whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing shows an unprecedentedly rapid expansion of the B.1.1.7 lineage during Autumn 2020, suggesting a selective advantage. We find that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S-gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Analysis of trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers in local areas across England shows that the VOC has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if the VOC has a different latent period or generation time. The SGTF data indicate a transient shift in the age composition of reported cases, with a larger share of under 20 year olds among reported VOC than non-VOC cases. Time-varying reproduction numbers for the VOC and cocirculating lineages were estimated using SGTF and genomic data. The best supported models did not indicate a substantial difference in VOC transmissibility among different age groups. There is a consensus among all analyses that the VOC has a substantial transmission advantage with a 50% to 100% higher reproduction number.

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