Report 44: Recent trends in SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in England


Since its emergence in Autumn 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VOC) B.1.1.7 rapidly became the dominant lineage across much of Europe. Simultaneously, several other VOCs were identified globally. Unlike B.1.1.7, some of these VOCs possess mutations thought to confer partial immune escape. Understanding when, whether, and how these additional VOCs pose a threat in settings where B.1.1.7 is currently dominant is vital. This is particularly true for England, which has high coverage from vaccines that are likely more protective against B.1.1.7 than some other VOCs. We examine trends in B.1.1.7’s prevalence in London and other English regions using passive-case detection PCR data, cross-sectional community infection surveys, genomic surveillance, and wastewater monitoring. Our results suggest shifts in the composition of SARS-CoV-2 lineages driving transmission in England between March and April 2021. Local transmission of non-B.1.1.7 VOCs may be increasing; this warrants urgent further investigation.

EClinicalMedicine, published by THE LANCET