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Genomic assessment of quarantine measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 importation and transmission

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Schaefer, Ulf 
Savva, George 
Myers, Richard 


Mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from international travel is a priority. We evaluated the effectiveness of travellers being required to quarantine for 14-days on return to England in Summer 2020. We identified 4,207 travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cases and their contacts, and identified 827 associated SARS-CoV-2 genomes. Overall, quarantine was associated with a lower rate of contacts, and the impact of quarantine was greatest in the 16-20 age-group. 186 SARS-CoV-2 genomes were sufficiently unique to identify travel-related clusters. Fewer genomically-linked cases were observed for index cases who returned from countries with quarantine requirement compared to countries with no quarantine requirement. This difference was explained by fewer importation events per identified genome for these cases, as opposed to fewer onward contacts per case. Overall, our study demonstrates that a 14-day quarantine period reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the onward transmission of imported cases, mainly by dissuading travel to countries with a quarantine requirement.



COVID-19, Communicable Diseases, Imported, Contact Tracing, England, Genome, Viral, Genomics, Health Impact Assessment, Humans, Quarantine, SARS-CoV-2, Travel, Travel-Related Illness

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Nature Communications

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Nature Research
Wellcome Trust (204017/Z/16/Z)
UK Research and Innovation (MC_PC_19027)
Medical Research Council (MR/N029399/1)
We thank members of the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium UK and Test and Trace contact tracers for their contributions to generating the data used in this study. We thank the Sanger Covid Team for assisting with Samples and Logistics. We thank Sarah Mitchell from the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, for direction on statistical analysis. DA is a Clinical PhD Fellow and gratefully supported by the Wellcome Trust (Grant number: 222903/Z/21/Z). EMH is supported by a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Fellowship: MR/S00291X/1. AJP, TLV, GMS gratefully acknowledge the support of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); their research was funded by the BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme Microbes in the Food Chain BB/R012504/1 and its constituent project BBS/E/F/000PR10352, also Quadram Institute Bioscience BBSRC funded Core Capability Grant (project number BB/CCG1860/1). The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Genome Research Limited, operating as the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.