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Real-Time Genomics for Tracking Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Border Incursions after Virus Elimination, New Zealand


Since severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 was first eliminated in New Zealand in May 2020, a total of 13 known coronavirus disease (COVID-19) community outbreaks have occurred, 2 of which led health officials to issue stay-at-home orders. These outbreaks originated at the border via isolating returnees, airline workers, and cargo vessels. Because a public health system was informed by real-time viral genomic sequencing and complete genomes typically were available within 12 hours of community-based positive COVID-19 test results, every outbreak was well-contained. A total of 225 community cases resulted in 3 deaths. Real-time genomics were essential for establishing links between cases when epidemiologic data could not do so and for identifying when concurrent outbreaks had different origins.

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