Increased transmissibility of the alpha SARS-CoV-2 variant: evidence from contact tracing data in Oslo, January to February 2021

  • Jonas Christoffer Lindstrøm
  • Solveig Engebretsen
  • Anja Bråthen Kristoffersen
  • Gunnar Øyvind Isaksson Rø
  • Alfonso Diz-Lois Palomares


Background: Information about the contagiousness of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the alpha lineage, and how they spread in various locations is essential. Country-specific estimates are needed because local interventions influence transmissibility.
Methods: We analysed contact tracing data from Oslo municipality, reported from January through February 2021, when the alpha lineage became predominant in Norway and estimated the relative transmissibility of the alpha lineage with the use of Poisson regression.
Results: Within households, we found an increase in the secondary attack rate by 60% (95% CI 20–114%) among cases infected with the alpha lineage compared to other variants; including all close contacts, the relative increase in the secondary attack rate was 24% (95% CI −6%−43%). There was a significantly higher risk of infecting household members in index cases aged 40–59 years who were infected with the alpha lineage; we found no association between transmission and household size. Overall, including all close contacts, we found that the reproduction number among cases with the alpha lineage was increased by 24% (95% CI 0%−52%), corresponding to an absolute increase of 0.19, compared to the group of index cases infected with other variants.
Conclusion: Our study suggests that households are the primary locations for rapid transmission of the new lineage alpha.