Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

This is an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. Nature Research are providing this early version of the manuscript as a service to our authors and readers. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting and a proof review before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers apply.

Spread of a SARS-CoV-2 variant through Europe in the summer of 2020

Abstract

Following its emergence in late 2019, the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)1,2 has been tracked via phylogenetic analysis of viral genome sequences in unprecedented detail3–5. While the virus spread globally in early 2020 before borders closed, intercontinental travel has since been greatly reduced. However, within Europe travel resumed in the summer of 2020. Here we report on a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant, 20E (EU1), that emerged in Spain in early summer, and subsequently spread across Europe. We find no evidence of increased transmissibility, but instead demonstrate how rising incidence in Spain, resumption of travel, and lack of effective screening and containment may explain the variant’s success. Despite travel restrictions, we estimate 20E (EU1) was introduced hundreds of times to European countries by summertime travelers, likely undermining local efforts to keep SARS-CoV-2 cases low. Our results demonstrate how a variant can rapidly become dominant even in absence of a substantial transmission advantage in favorable epidemiological settings. Genomic surveillance is critical to understanding how travel can impact SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and thus for informing future containment strategies as travel resumes.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Consortia

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Emma B. Hodcroft or Richard A. Neher.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains additional information about the first sequences identified for selected countries across Europe, as well as information about travel restrictions and quarantine requirements over the summer of 2020. It also includes Supplementary Tables 1-2.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Information

This file contains contains the attributions for the data providers and submitters for the sequences used in this analysis.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hodcroft, E.B., Zuber, M., Nadeau, S. et al. Spread of a SARS-CoV-2 variant through Europe in the summer of 2020. Nature (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03677-y

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing