SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant of concern in the Seychelles: Introduction and spread
Morobe JM., Pool B., Marie L., Didon D., Lambisia AW., Makori T., Mohammed KS., Ndwiga L., Mburu MW., Moraa E., Murunga N., Mwanga M., Musyoki J., Moturi AK., Namulondo J., Tembo SZ., Ogendi E., Balde T., Dratibi FA., Ali Ahmed Y., Gumede N., Achilla RA., Borus PK., Wanjohi DW., Tessema SK., Mwangangi J., Bejon P., Nokes DJ., Ochola-Oyier LI., Githinji G., Biscornet L., Agoti CN.
Background: The emergence of the Omicron variant of concern in late 2021 led to a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections globally. By September 2022, Seychelles had experienced two major surges of SARS-CoV-2 infections driven by the Omicron variant. Here, we examine the genomic epidemiology of Omicron in the Seychelles between November 2021 and September 2022. Methods: We analysed 618 SARS-CoV-2 Omicron genomes identified in the Seychelles between November 2021 and September 2022 to infer virus introductions and local transmission patterns using phylogenetics and the ancestral state reconstruction approach. We then evaluated the impact of government coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) countermeasures on the estimated number of viral introductions during the study period. Results: The genomes classified into 43 distinct Pango lineages. The first surge in Omicron cases (beginning November 2021 and peaking in January 2022) was predominated by the BA.1.1 lineage (59%) co-circulating with 11 other Omicron lineages. In the second surge (between April and June 2022), four lineages (BA.2, BA.2.10, BA.2.65 and BA.2.9) co-circulated and these were swiftly replaced by BA.5 subvariants in July 2022, which remained predominant through to September 2022. In the latter period, sporadic detections of BA.5 subvariants BQ.1, BE and BF were observed. We estimated 109 independent Omicron importations into Seychelles over the 11-month period, most of which occurred between December 2021 and March 2022 when strict government restrictions (SI>50%) were still in force. The districts Anse Royale, and Baie St. Anne Praslin appeared to be the major dispersal points fuelling local transmission. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the waves of Omicron infections in the Seychelles were driven by multiple lineages and multiple virus introductions. The introductions were followed by substantial local spread and successive lineage displacement that mirrored the global patterns.