Deakin University

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Risk of within-hotel transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during on-arrival quarantine in Hong Kong: an epidemiological and phylogenomic investigation

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-17, 05:43 authored by DC Adam, M Martín-Sánchez, H Gu, B Yang, Y Lin, P Wu, EHY Lau, GM Leung, LLM Poon, BJ Cowling
Background: On-arrival quarantine has been one of the primary measures to prevent the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic. Most on-arrival quarantines have been done in hotels, with the duration of quarantine and testing frequency during quarantine modified over time along with other pandemic control measures. However, hotels are not designed with infection control in mind. We aimed to systematically study the potential risk of acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection among individuals undergoing hotel quarantine. Methods: We examined data on each laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case identified in on-arrival quarantine in a hotel in Hong Kong between 1 May 2020 and 31 January 2022. We sequenced the whole genomes of viruses from cases that overlapped with other confirmed cases in terms of the hotel of stay, date of arrival and date of testing positive. By combining multiple sources of evidence, we identify probable and plausible transmission events and calculate the overall risk of transmission. Findings: Among 221 imported cases that overlapped with other cases detected during hotel quarantine with available sequence data, phylogenomic analyses identified five probable and two plausible clusters of within-hotel transmission. Only two of these clusters were recognised at the time. Including other clusters reported in Hong Kong, we estimate that 8–11 per 1000 cases identified in hotel quarantine may be infected by another unlinked case during quarantine, or 2–3 per 100,000 overseas arrivals. Interpretation: We have identified additional undetected occurrences of COVID-19 transmission within hotel quarantine in Hong Kong. Although hotels provide suboptimal infection control as improvised quarantine facilities, the risk of contracting infection whilst in quarantine is low. However, these unlikely events could have high consequences by allowing the virus to spread into immunologically naïve communities. Additional vigilance should be taken in the absence of improved controls to identify such events. If on-arrival quarantine is expected to be used for a long time, quarantine facilities could be purpose-built to minimise the risk of transmission. Funding: Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong.



The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific



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Elsevier BV