Third wave hits Europe
Just as the UK takes tentative steps back from the lockdown that started at the beginning of the year, others in Europe are imposing increased restrictions. These are in response to a 3rd wave over the last few weeks (cases more than doubling in Poland), driven by the more transmissible "Kent" variant. Figure 1.1 shows the patterns in positive cases across Europe from OurWorldInData.
Monitoring the variants The GISAID Initiative has been promoting the rapid sharing of data on influenza and coronaviruses throughout the pandemic, including genetic sequences. Their database so far includes 860,000 sequence submissions, from national and international registries such as Nextstrain.org. They have focused recently on a number of key variants of concern where changes to the genetic code could affect transmissibility of the virus or effectiveness of the immune response. Figure 1.2 sets out the proportion of different specimens in different countries that have identified these variants over the last 4 weeks. This highlights the dominance of the B.1.1.7 variant in the UK and of the P1 variant in Brazil. Perhaps surprisingly, there have been no cases of B.1.351 in South Africa over this period.
Figure 1.2 - % variant samples over last 4 weeks from GISAID
Source: GISAID Initiative