C2i and the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole studied the viral dynamics of the four previous SARS-CoV-2 waves in Hong Kong. Their findings are published in Nature Communications.
Hong Kong employed a strategy of intermittent public health and social measures alongside increasingly stringent travel regulations to eliminate domestic SARS-CoV-2 transmission. By analyzing 1899 genome sequences (>18% of confirmed cases) from 23-January-2020 to 26-January-2021, we reveal the effects of fluctuating control measures on the evolution and epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 lineages in Hong Kong. Despite numerous importations, only three introductions were responsible for 90% of locally-acquired cases. Community outbreaks were caused by novel introductions rather than a resurgence of circulating strains. Thus, local outbreak prevention requires strong border control and community surveillance, especially during periods of less stringent social restriction. Non-adherence to prolonged preventative measures may explain sustained local transmission observed during wave four in late 2020 and early 2021. We also found that, due to a tight transmission bottleneck, transmission of low-frequency single nucleotide variants between hosts is rare.