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Background: After the first case of COVID-19 in Japan on 15 January 2020, multiple nationwide COVID-19 clusters were identified by the end of February. The Japanese government focused on mitigating emerging COVID-19 clusters by conducting active nationwide epidemiological surveillance. However, an increasing number of cases appeared until early April, many with unclear infection routes exhibiting no recent history of travel outside Japan. We aimed to evaluate the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genome sequences from COVID-19 cases until early April and characterise the genealogical networks to demonstrate possible routes of spread in Japan. Methods: Nasopharyngeal specimens were collected from patients and a quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing for SARS-CoV-2 was performed. Positive RNA samples were subjected whole genome sequencing and a haplotype network analysis was performed. Findings: Some of the primary clusters identified during January and February in Japan directly descended from Wuhan-Hu-1-related isolates in China and other distinct clusters. Clusters were almost contained until mid-March; the haplotype network analysis demonstrated that COVID-19 cases from late March through early April may have caused an additional large cluster related to the outbreak in Europe, leading to additional spread within Japan. National self-restraint during February was effective in mitigating the COVID-19 spread, but late action on stopping immigration and declaring national emergency in Japan might be involved in the later increase in cases. Interpretation: Genome surveillance suggested that at least two distinct SARS-CoV-2 introductions from China and other countries occurred. Funding: Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development.

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