Sep 29, 2021; Nature Communications . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25985-7
COVID-19 transmission rates are often linked to locally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. Here we describe 203 SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequences analyzed from strains circulating in Rwanda from May 2020 to February 2021. In particular, we report a shift in variant distribution towards the emerging sub-lineage A.23.1 that is currently dominating. Furthermore, we report the detection of the first Rwandan cases of the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants of concern among incoming travelers tested at Kigali International Airport. To assess the importance of viral introductions from neighboring countries and local transmission, we exploit available individual travel history metadata to inform spatio-temporal phylogeographic inference, enabling us to take into account infections from unsampled locations. We uncover an important role of neighboring countries in seeding introductions into Rwanda, including those from which no genomic sequences were available. Our results highlight the importance of systematic genomic surveillance and regional collaborations for a durable response towards combating COVID-19.