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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22282629


In many regions of the world, the Alpha, Beta and Gamma SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) co-circulated during 2020-21 and fueled waves of infections. During 2021, these variants were almost completely displaced by the Delta variant, causing a third wave of infections worldwide. This phenomenon of global viral lineage displacement was observed again in late 2021, when the Omicron variant disseminated globally. In this study, we use phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods to reconstruct the dispersal patterns of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs worldwide. We find that the source-sink dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 varied substantially by VOC, and identify countries that acted as global hubs of variant dissemination, while other countries became regional contributors to the export of specific variants. We demonstrate a declining role of presumed origin countries of VOCs to their global dispersal: we estimate that India contributed <15% of all global exports of Delta to other countries and South Africa <1-2% of all global Omicron exports globally. We further estimate that >80 countries had received introductions of Omicron BA.1 100 days after its inferred date of emergence, compared to just over 25 countries for the Alpha variant. This increased speed of global dissemination was associated with a rebound in air travel volume prior to Omicron emergence in addition to the higher transmissibility of Omicron relative to Alpha. Our study highlights the importance of global and regional hubs in VOC dispersal, and the speed at which highly transmissible variants disseminate through these hubs, even before their detection and characterization through genomic surveillance. HighlightsO_LIGlobal phylogenetic analysis reveals relationship between air travel and speed of dispersal of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) C_LIO_LIOmicron VOC spread to 5x more countries within 100 days of its emergence compared to all other VOCs C_LIO_LIOnward transmission and dissemination of VOCs Delta and Omicron was primarily from secondary hubs rather than initial country of detection during a time of increased global air travel C_LIO_LIAnalysis highlights highly connected countries identified as major global and regional exporters of VOCs C_LI

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21267606


The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases1-3. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions4,5. Here we analyse 52,992 Delta genomes from England in combination with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England, in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the focus of geographic expansion of Delta shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers from India reduced onward transmission from importations; however the transmission chains that later dominated the Delta wave in England had been already seeded before restrictions were introduced. In England, increasing inter-regional travel drove Deltas nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from other regions. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, was associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Among US states, we find that regions that previously experienced large waves also had faster Delta growth rates, and a model including interactions between immunity and human behaviour could accurately predict the rise of Delta there. Deltas invasion dynamics depended on fine scale spatial heterogeneity in immunity and contact patterns and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future VOCs such as Omicron.