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A phylodynamic workflow to rapidly gain insights into the dispersal history and dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 lineages

By Simon Dellicour, Keith Durkin, Samuel L. Hong, Bert Vanmechelen, Joan Marti-Carreras, Mandev S. Gill, Cécile Meex, Sébastien Bontems, Emmanuel Andre, Marius Gilbert, Conor Walker, Nicola De Maio, Nuno R. Faria, James Hadfield, Marie-Pierre Hayette, Vincent Bours, Tony Wawina-Bokalanga, Maria Artesi, Guy Baele, Piet Maes

Posted 08 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.05.078758 (published DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msaa284)

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of genomic sequences of the causative virus (SARS-CoV-2) have been generated and shared with the scientific community. The unparalleled volume of available genetic data presents a unique opportunity to gain real-time insights into the virus transmission during the pandemic, but also a daunting computational hurdle if analysed with gold-standard phylogeographic approaches. We here describe and apply an analytical pipeline that is a compromise between fast and rigorous analytical steps. As a proof of concept, we focus on the Belgium epidemic, with one of the highest spatial density of available SARS-CoV-2 genomes. At the global scale, our analyses confirm the importance of external introduction events in establishing multiple transmission chains in the country. At the country scale, our spatially-explicit phylogeographic analyses highlight that the national lockdown had a relatively low impact on both the lineage dispersal velocity and the long-distance dispersal events within Belgium. Our pipeline has the potential to be quickly applied to other countries or regions, with key benefits in complementing epidemiological analyses in assessing the impact of intervention measures or their progressive easement. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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