The course of the UK COVID 19 pandemic; no measurable impact of new variants.
Posted 17 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.16.21253534
Posted 17 Mar 2021
Introduction In November 2020, a new SARS-COV-2 variant or the Kent variant emerged in the UK, and became the dominant UK SARS-COV-2 variant, demonstrating faster transmission than the original variant, which rapidly died out. However, it is unknown if this actually altered the overall course of the pandemic as genomic analysis was not common place at the outset and other factors such as the climate could alter the viral transmission rate over time. We aimed to test the hypothesis that the overall observed viral transmission was not altered by the emergence of the new variant, by testing a model generated earlier in the pandemic based on lockdown stringency, temperature and humidity. Methods From 1/1/20 to 4/2/21, the daily incidence of SARS-COV-2 deaths and the overall stringency of National Lockdown policy on each day was extracted from the Oxford University Government response tracker. The daily average temperature and humidity for London was extracted from Wunderground.com. The viral reproductive rate was calculated on a daily basis from the daily mortality data for each day. The correlation between log10 of viral reproductive rate and lockdown stringency and weather parameters were compared by Pearson correlation to determine the time lag associated with the greatest correlation. A multivariate model for the log10 of viral reproductive rate was constructed using lockdown stringency, temperature and humidity for the period 1/1/20 to 30/9/20. This model was extrapolated forward from 1/10/20 to 4/2/21 and the predicted viral reproductive rate, daily mortality and cumulative mortality were compared with official data. Results On multivariate linear regression, the optimal model had and R2 0f 0.833 for prediction of log10 viral reproductive rate 13 days later in the model construction period, with (coefficient, probability) lockdown stringency (-0.0109, p=0.0000), humidity (0.0038, p=0.0041) and temperature (-0.0035, p=0.0008). When extrapolated to the validation period (1/10/20 to 4/2/21), the model was highly correlated with daily (Pearson coefficient 0.88, p=0.0000) and cumulated SARS-COV-2 mortality (Pearson coefficient 0.99, p=0.0000). Conclusion The course of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic in the UK seems highly predicted by an earlier model based on the lockdown stringency, humidity and temperature and unaltered by the emergence of newer viral genotype.
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