Spatiotemporal invasion dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 emergence
Understanding the causes and consequences of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern is crucial to pandemic control yet difficult to achieve, as they arise in the context of variable human behavior and immunity. We investigate the spatial invasion dynamics of lineage B.1.1.7 by jointly analyzing UK human mobility, virus genomes, and community-based PCR data. We identify a multi-stage spatial invasion process in which early B.1.1.7 growth rates were associated with mobility and asymmetric lineage export from a dominant source location, enhancing the effects of B.1.1.7’s increased intrinsic transmissibility. We further explore how B.1.1.7 spread was shaped by non-pharmaceutical interventions and spatial variation in previous attack rates. Our findings show that careful accounting of the behavioral and epidemiological context within which variants of concern emerge is necessary to interpret correctly their observed relative growth rates.