Establishment and lineage dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in the UK
du Plessis L., McCrone JT., Zarebski AE., Hill V., Ruis C., Gutierrez B., Raghwani J., Ashworth J., Colquhoun R., Connor TR., Faria NR., Jackson B., Loman NJ., O’Toole Á., Nicholls SM., Parag KV., Scher E., Vasylyeva TI., Volz EM., Watts A., Bogoch II., Khan K., Aanensen DM., Kraemer MUG., Rambaut A., Pybus OG.
Lineage dynamics The scale of genome-sequencing efforts for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unprecedented. The United Kingdom has contributed more than 26,000 sequences to this effort. This volume of data allowed du Plessis et al. to develop a detailed picture of the influxes of virus reaching U.K. shores as the pandemic developed during the first months of 2020 (see the Perspective by Nelson). Before lockdown, high travel volumes and few restrictions on international travel allowed more than 1000 lineages to become established. This accelerated local epidemic growth and exceeded contact tracing capacity. The authors were able to quantify the abundance, size distribution, and spatial range of the lineages that were transmitted. Transmission was highly heterogeneous, favoring some lineages that became widespread and subsequently harder to eliminate. This dire history indicates that rapid or even preemptive responses should have been used as they were elsewhere where containment was successful. Science , this issue p. 708 ; see also p. 680