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When SARS-CoV-2 Omicron emerged in 2021, S gene target failure enabled differentiation between Omicron and the dominant Delta variant. In England, where S gene target surveillance (SGTS) was already established, this led to rapid identification (within ca 3 days of sample collection) of possible Omicron cases, alongside real-time surveillance and modelling of Omicron growth. SGTS was key to public health action (including case identification and incident management), and we share applied insights on how and when to use SGTS.


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