Our Managing Director Professor Leo Poon and HKU-Pasteur's Professor Vijay Dhanasekaran's team deliver great insights into current and future public health interventions in their latest publication in Nature Communications, which describes the origin, transmission dynamics and impact of the alarming Omicron BA.2 wave in 2022 Hong Kong.
Hong Kong experienced a surge of Omicron BA.2 infections in early 2022, resulting in one of the highest per-capita death rates of COVID-19. The outbreak occurred in a dense population with low immunity towards natural SARS-CoV-2 infection, high vaccine hesitancy in vulnerable populations, comprehensive disease surveillance and the capacity for stringent public health and social measures (PHSMs). By analyzing genome sequences and epidemiological data, we reconstructed the epidemic trajectory of BA.2 wave and found that the initial BA.2 community transmission emerged from cross-infection within hotel quarantine. The rapid implementation of PHSM suppressed early epidemic growth but the effective reproduction number (Re) increased again during the Spring festival in early February and remained around 1 until early April. Independent estimates of point prevalence and incidence using phylodynamics also showed extensive superspreading at this time, which likely contributed to the rapid expansion of the epidemic. Discordant inferences based on genomic and epidemiological data underscore the need for research to improve near real-time epidemic growth estimates by combining multiple disparate data sources to better inform outbreak response policy.