BackgroundThe Omicron wave of COVID-19 in England peaked in January 2022 resulting from the rapid transmission of the Omicron BA.1 variant. We investigate the spread and dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in the population of England during February 2022, by region, age and main SARS-CoV-2 sub-lineage.MethodsIn the REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission-1 (REACT-1) study we obtained data from a random sample of 94,950 participants with valid throat and nose swab results by RT-PCR during round 18 (8 February to 1 March 2022).FindingsWe estimated a weighted mean SARS-CoV-2 prevalence of 2.88% (95% credible interval [CrI] 2.76-3.00), with a within-round effective reproduction number (R) overall of 0.94 (0·91-0.96). While within-round weighted prevalence fell among children (aged 5 to 17 years) and adults aged 18 to 54 years, we observed a level or increasing weighted prevalence among those aged 55 years and older with an R of 1.04 (1.00-1.09). Among 1,616 positive samples with sublineages determined, one (0.1% [0.0-0.3]) corresponded to XE BA.1/BA.2 recombinant and the remainder were Omicron: N=1047, 64.8% (62.4-67.2) were BA.1; N=568, 35.2% (32.8-37.6) were BA.2. We estimated an R additive advantage for BA.2 (vs BA.1) of 0.38 (0.34-0.41). The highest proportion of BA.2 among positives was found in London.InterpretationIn February 2022, infection prevalence in England remained high with level or increasing rates of infection in older people and an uptick in hospitalisations. Ongoing surveillance of both survey and hospitalisations data is required.FundingDepartment of Health and Social Care, England.
The Lancet regional health. Europe
School of Public Health, Imperial College London, UK.