UK – SARS-CoV-2 Variant – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

On 14 December 2020, authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reported to WHO that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing. This variant is referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01). Initial analysis indicates that the variant may spread more readily between people. Investigations are ongoing to determine if this variant is associated with any changes in the severity of symptoms, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.

A total of 1108 cases infected with SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 have been detected in the United Kingdom as of 13 December 2020. The variant was picked up as part of an epidemiological and virological investigation initiated earlier in December 2020 following an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases in South East England. It was characterized by a more than three-fold increase in the 14-day case notification rate from epidemiological week 41 to week 50 (5 October to 13 December 2020). On average, between 5 – 10% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses have routinely been sequenced in the United Kingdom and 4% routinely sequenced in South East England since the beginning of the pandemic. From 5 October to 13 December, over 50% of isolates were identified as the variant strain in South East England. Retrospective analysis traced the first identified variant to Kent, South East England, on 20 September 2020, which was followed by a rapid increase of the same variant identified later in November. Most COVID-19 cases from whom this variant has been identified have occurred in people under 60 years of age…