Multiple early introductions of SARS‑CoV‑2 into a global travel hub in the Middle East
Tayoun, Ahmad Abou
Al Suwaidi, Hanan
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Abstract: International travel played a significant role in the early global spread of SARS-CoV-2. Understanding transmission patterns from different regions of the world will further inform global dynamics of the pandemic. Using data from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major international travel hub in the Middle East, we establish SARS-CoV-2 full genome sequences from the index and early COVID-19 patients in the UAE. The genome sequences are analysed in the context of virus introductions, chain of transmissions, and possible links to earlier strains from other regions of the world. Phylogenetic analysis showed multiple spatiotemporal introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into the UAE from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East during the early phase of the pandemic. We also provide evidence for early community-based transmission and catalogue new mutations in SARS-CoV-2 strains in the UAE. Our findings contribute to the understanding of the global transmission network of SARS-CoV-2.