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Rapid transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has led to record-breaking case incidence rates around the world. Since May 2020, the REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission-1 (REACT-1) study tracked the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection in England through RT-PCR of self-administered throat and nose swabs from randomly-selected participants aged 5 years and over. In January 2022, we found an overall weighted prevalence of 4.41% (n = 102,174), three-fold higher than in November to December 2021; we sequenced 2,374 (99.2%) Omicron infections (19 BA.2), and only 19 (0.79%) Delta, with a growth rate advantage for BA.2 compared to BA.1 or BA.1.1. Prevalence was decreasing overall (reproduction number R = 0.95, 95% credible interval [CrI], 0.93, 0.97), but increasing in children aged 5 to 17 years (R = 1.13, 95% CrI, 1.09, 1.18). In England during January 2022, we observed unprecedented levels of SARS-CoV-2 infection, especially among children, driven by almost complete replacement of Delta by Omicron.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Humans, Specimen Handling, Base Sequence, Child, England, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2