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Uncovering two phases of early intercontinental COVID-19 transmission dynamics

Uncovering two phases of early intercontinental COVID-19 transmission dynamics
Uncovering two phases of early intercontinental COVID-19 transmission dynamics

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an ongoing global crisis, but how the virus spread across the world remains poorly understood. This is of vital importance for informing current and future pandemic response strategies.

METHODS: We performed two independent analyses, travel network-based epidemiological modelling and Bayesian phylogeographic inference, to investigate the intercontinental spread of COVID-19.

RESULTS: Both approaches revealed two distinct phases of COVID-19 spread by the end of March 2020. In the first phase, COVID-19 largely circulated in China during mid- to late January, 2020, and was interrupted by containment measures in China. In the second and predominant phase extending from late February to mid-March, unrestricted movements between countries outside of China facilitated intercontinental spread, with Europe as a major source. Phylogenetic analyses also revealed that the dominant strains circulating in the United States of America were introduced from Europe. However, stringent restrictions on international travel across the world since late March have substantially reduced intercontinental transmission.

CONCLUSIONS: Our analyses highlight that heterogeneities in international travel have shaped the spatiotemporal characteristics of the pandemic. Unrestricted travel caused a large number of COVID-19 exportations from Europe to other continents between late February and mid-March, which facilitated the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted restrictions on international travel from countries with widespread community transmission, together with improved capacity in testing, genetic sequencing and contact tracing, can inform timely strategies for mitigating and containing COVID-19 outbreaks post-lockdown.

1195-1982
Yang, Jing
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Li, Juan
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Lai, Shengjie
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Ruktanonchai, Corrine W.
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Xing, Weijia
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Carioli, Alessandra
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Wang, Peihan
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Ruktanonchai, Nick W.
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Li, Ruiyun
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Floyd, Jessica R.
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Wang, Liang
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Bi, Yuhai
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Shi, Weifeng
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Tatem, Andrew J.
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Yang, Jing
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Li, Juan
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Lai, Shengjie
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Ruktanonchai, Corrine W.
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Xing, Weijia
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Carioli, Alessandra
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Wang, Peihan
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Ruktanonchai, Nick W.
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Li, Ruiyun
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Floyd, Jessica R.
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Wang, Liang
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Bi, Yuhai
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Shi, Weifeng
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Tatem, Andrew J.
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Yang, Jing, Li, Juan, Lai, Shengjie, Ruktanonchai, Corrine W., Xing, Weijia, Carioli, Alessandra, Wang, Peihan, Ruktanonchai, Nick W., Li, Ruiyun, Floyd, Jessica R., Wang, Liang, Bi, Yuhai, Shi, Weifeng and Tatem, Andrew J. (2020) Uncovering two phases of early intercontinental COVID-19 transmission dynamics. Journal of Travel Medicine, [taaa200]. (doi:10.1093/jtm/taaa200).

Record type: Article

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an ongoing global crisis, but how the virus spread across the world remains poorly understood. This is of vital importance for informing current and future pandemic response strategies.

METHODS: We performed two independent analyses, travel network-based epidemiological modelling and Bayesian phylogeographic inference, to investigate the intercontinental spread of COVID-19.

RESULTS: Both approaches revealed two distinct phases of COVID-19 spread by the end of March 2020. In the first phase, COVID-19 largely circulated in China during mid- to late January, 2020, and was interrupted by containment measures in China. In the second and predominant phase extending from late February to mid-March, unrestricted movements between countries outside of China facilitated intercontinental spread, with Europe as a major source. Phylogenetic analyses also revealed that the dominant strains circulating in the United States of America were introduced from Europe. However, stringent restrictions on international travel across the world since late March have substantially reduced intercontinental transmission.

CONCLUSIONS: Our analyses highlight that heterogeneities in international travel have shaped the spatiotemporal characteristics of the pandemic. Unrestricted travel caused a large number of COVID-19 exportations from Europe to other continents between late February and mid-March, which facilitated the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted restrictions on international travel from countries with widespread community transmission, together with improved capacity in testing, genetic sequencing and contact tracing, can inform timely strategies for mitigating and containing COVID-19 outbreaks post-lockdown.

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2020-JTM-Uncovering two phases of early intercontinental COVID-19 transmission dynamics - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 14 October 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 October 2020
Additional Information: © International Society of Travel Medicine 2020. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 444649
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/444649
ISSN: 1195-1982
PURE UUID: 2f5c160e-aa3b-431e-9533-1c7b60978d56
ORCID for Shengjie Lai: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9781-8148
ORCID for Andrew J. Tatem: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7270-941X

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 28 Oct 2020 18:03
Last modified: 21 Oct 2021 04:01

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Contributors

Author: Jing Yang
Author: Juan Li
Author: Shengjie Lai ORCID iD
Author: Corrine W. Ruktanonchai
Author: Weijia Xing
Author: Alessandra Carioli
Author: Peihan Wang
Author: Nick W. Ruktanonchai
Author: Ruiyun Li
Author: Jessica R. Floyd
Author: Liang Wang
Author: Yuhai Bi
Author: Weifeng Shi
Author: Andrew J. Tatem ORCID iD

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