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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22275053


ObjectiveIn September 2020, records of 15,861 SARS-CoV-2 cases failed to upload from the Second Generation Laboratory Surveillance System (SGSS) to the Contact Tracing Advisory Service (CTAS) tool, resulting in a delay in the contact tracing of these cases. This study used CTAS data to determine the impact of this delay on health outcomes: transmission events, hospitalisations, and mortality. Previously, a modelling study had suggested a substantial impact. DesignObservational study SettingEngland. PopulationIndividuals testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and their reported contacts. Main outcome measuresSecondary attack rates (SARs), hospitalisations, and deaths amongst primary and secondary contacts were calculated, compared to all other concurrent, unaffected cases. SGSS records affected by the event were matched to CTAS records and successive contacts and cases were identified. ResultsThe initiation of contact tracing was delayed by 3 days on average in the primary cases in the delay group (6 days) compared to the control group (3 days). This was associated with lower completion of contact tracing of primary cases in the delay group: 80% (95%CI: 79-81%) in the delay group and 83% (95%CI: 83-84%) in the control group. There was some evidence to suggest an increase in transmission to non-household contacts amongst those affected by the delay. The SAR for non-household contacts was higher amongst secondary contacts in the delay group than the control group (delay group: 7.9%, 95%CI:6.4% to 9.2%; control group: 5.9%, 95%CI: 5.3% to 6.6%). There was no evidence of a difference between the delay and control groups in the odds of hospitalisation (crude odds ratio: 1.1 (95%CI: 0.9 to 1.2) or death (crude odds ratio: 0.7 (0.1 to 4.0)) amongst secondary contacts. ConclusionsThe delay in contact tracing had a limited impact on population health outcomes. Strengths and limitations of the studyO_LIShows empirical data on the health impact of an event leading to a delay in contact tracing so can test hypotheses generated by models of the potential impact of a delay in contact tracing C_LIO_LIEstimates the extent of further transmission and odds of increased mortality or hospitalisation in up to the third generation of cases affected by the event C_LIO_LIThe event acts as a natural experiment to describe the possible impact of contact tracing, comparing a group affected by chance by delayed contact tracing to a control group who experienced no delay C_LIO_LIContact tracing was not completed for all individuals, so the study might not capture all affected contacts or transmissions C_LI

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22271001


BackgroundThe SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has rapidly replaced the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) to become dominant in England. This epidemiological study assessed differences in transmissibility between the Omicron and Delta using two methods and data sources. MethodsOmicron and Delta cases were identified through genomic sequencing, genotyping and S-gene target failure in England from 5-11 December 2021. Secondary attack rates for Omicron and Delta using named contacts and household clustering were calculated using national surveillance and contact tracing data. We used multivariable logistic regression was used to control for factors associated with transmission. FindingsAnalysis of contact tracing data identified elevated secondary attack rates for Omicron vs Delta in household (15.0% vs 10.8%) and non-household (8.2% vs 3.7%) settings. The proportion of index cases resulting in residential clustering was twice as high for Omicron (16.1%) compared to Delta (7.3%). Transmission was significantly less likely from cases, or in named contacts, in receipt of three compared to two vaccine doses in household settings, but less pronounced for Omicron (aRR 0.78 and 0.88) compared to Delta (aRR 0.62 and 0.68). In non-household settings, a similar reduction was observed for Delta cases and contacts (aRR 0.84 and 0.51) but only for Omicron contacts (aRR 0.76, 95% CI: 0.58-0.93) and not cases in receipt of three vs two doses (aRR 0.95, 0.77-1.16). InterpretationOur study identified increased risk of onward transmission of Omicron, consistent with its successful global displacement of Delta. We identified a reduced effectiveness of vaccination in lowering risk of transmission, a likely contributor for the rapid propagation of Omicron. FundingStudy funded by the UK Health Security Agency.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21254168


BackgroundTesting asymptomatic contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 could reduce onward transmission by improving case ascertainment and lessen the impact of self-isolation on un-infected individuals. This study investigated the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a test to enable approach as part of Englands tracing strategy. MethodsContacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases were offered serial testing as an alternative to self-isolation using daily self-performed lateral flow device (LFD) tests for the first 7 days post exposure. Asymptomatic participants with a negative LFD result were given 24 hours of freedom from self-isolation between each test. A self-collected confirmatory PCR test was performed on testing positive or at the end of the LFD testing period. ResultsOf 1,760 contacts, 882 consented to daily testing, with 812 within 48 hours of exposure sent testing packs. Of those who declined to participate, 39.1% stated they had already accessed PCR testing. Of the 812 who were sent packs, 570 (70.2%) reported one or more LFD results; 102 (17.9%) tested positive. Concordance between reported LFD result and a supplied LFD image was 97.1%. 82.8% of PCR positive samples and 99.6% of PCR negative samples were correctly detected by LFD. The proportion of secondary cases from contacts of those who participated in the study and tested positive (6.3%; 95% CI: 3.4-11.1%) were comparable to a comparator group who self-isolated (7.6%; 95% CI: 7.3-7.8%). ConclusionThis study shows a high acceptability, compliance and positivity rates when using self-administered LFDs among contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Offering routine testing as a structured part of the contact tracing process is likely to be an effective method of case ascertainment.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21253590


BackgroundMitigation of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from international travel is a priority. Travellers from countries with travel restrictions (closed travel-corridors) were required to quarantine for 14 days over Summer 2020 in England. We describe the genomic epidemiology of travel-related cases in England and evaluate the effectiveness of this travel policy. MethodsBetween 27/05/2020 and 13/09/2020, probable travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cases and their contacts were identified and combined with UK SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data. The epidemiology and demographics of cases was identified, and the number of contacts per case modelled using negative binomial regression to estimate the effect of travel restriction, and any variation by age, sex and calendar date. Unique travel-related SARS-CoV-2 genomes in the COG-UK dataset were identified to estimate the effect travel restrictions on cluster size generated from these. The Polecat Clustering Tool was used to identify a travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cluster of infection. Findings4,207 travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cases are identified. 51.2% (2155/4207) of cases reported travel to one of three countries; 21.0% (882) Greece, 16.3% (685) Croatia and 14.0% (589) Spain. Median number of contacts per case was 3 (IQR 1-5), and greatest for the 16-20 age-group (9.0, 95% C.I.=5.6-14.5), which saw the largest attenuation by travel restriction. Travel restriction was associated with a 40% (rate ratio=0.60, 95% C.I.=0.37-0.95) lower rate of contacts. 827/4207 (19.7%) of cases had high-quality SARS-CoV-2 genomes available. Fewer genomically-linked cases were observed for index cases related to countries with travel restrictions compared to cases from non-travel restriction countries (rate ratio=0.17, 95% C.I.=0.05-0.52). A large travel-related cluster dispersed across England is identified through genomics, confirmed with contact-tracing data. InterpretationThis study demonstrates the efficacy of travel restriction policy in reducing the onward transmission of imported cases. FundingWellcome Trust, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK Research & Innovation, National Institute of Health Research, Wellcome Sanger Institute. RESEARCH IN CONTEXTO_ST_ABSEvidence before this studyC_ST_ABSWe searched PubMed, medRxiv, bioRxiv, Web of Science and Scopus for the terms (COVID-19 OR SARS-COV-2) AND (imported or importation) AND (sequenc* OR genom* or WGS). We filtered the 55 articles identified through this search and rejected any that did not undertake SARS-CoV-2 sequencing as part of an epidemiological investigation for importation into a different country. The remaining 20 papers were reviewed in greater detail to understand the patterns of importation and the methods used in each case. Added value of this studyThis is the first published study on importations of SARS-CoV-2 into England using genomics. Plessis et al., (2021) used a predictive model to infer the number of importations in to the UK from all SARS-CoV-2 genomes generated before 26th June 2020. The current study assesses the period 27/05/2020 to 13/09/2020 and presents findings of case-reported travel linked to genomic data. Two unpublished reports exist for Wales and Scotland, although only examine a comparatively small number of importations. Implications of all the available evidenceThis large-scale study has a number of findings that are pertinent to public health and of global significance, not available from prior evidence to our knowledge. The study demonstrates travel restrictions, through the implementation of travel-corridors, are effective in reducing the number of contacts per case based on observational data. Age has a significant effect on the number of contacts and this can be mitigated with travel restrictions. Analysis of divergent clusters indicates travel restrictions can reduce the number of onwards cases following a travel-associated case. Analysis of divergent clusters can allow for importations to be identified from genomics, as subsequently evidenced by cluster characteristics derived from contact tracing. The majority of importations of SARS-CoV-2 in England over Summer 2020 were from coastal European countries. The highest number of cases and onward contacts were from Greece, which was largely exempt from self-isolation requirements (bar some islands in September at the end of the study period). Systematic monitoring of imported SARS-CoV-2 cases would help refine implementation of travel restrictions. Finally, along with multiple studies, this study highlights the use of genomics to monitor and track importations of SARS-CoV-2 mutations of interest; this will be of particular use as the repertoire of clinically relevant SARS-CoV-2 variants expand over time and globally.