The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), together with research partners, Epicentre, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), is currently conducting Wave 1 of the National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS). This survey was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September 2020 and the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande at the end of September this year.
The survey aims to understand and generate a national estimate of what proportion of South Africans may have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19) virus, including those who may have been infected without knowing either due to being asymptomatic, having mild symptoms, or not being able to access testing facilities. This data will help South Africa understand the spread of the virus, identify factors driving infections, and further, to estimate the number of all individuals who have been previously infected with the virus including those who either were not tested or did not have any symptoms/signs that they were infected.
The survey will include:
- 19 000 interviews with people over 12 years of age in each of the nine (9) provinces;
- Trained field teams will visit selected households and conduct interviews aimed at assessing the history of infection, exposure to contacts, co-morbidities, and practices such as hand washing and social distancing. The interviews will not be longer than 20 minutes;
- A qualified nurse (phlebotomist) will request a small blood sample from each respondent that will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies;
- 10% of the participants who live in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria will be asked to provide an additional blood sample to be tested to ascertain how the body responds to the COVID-19 virus;
- The results will be linked to the information provided in the questionnaires to understand how COVID-19 is spread in communities.
Wave 1 of the survey is already underway and it is anticipated that it will be concluded later in the month.
The second wave (Wave 2) will be conducted from January 2021 to February 2021. In Wave 2, different households in the same areas will be visited in all provinces except in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria where the same households as in Wave 1 will be revisited.
The survey team invites the participation of all the pre-selected households in this important and very necessary survey which will help inform South Africa’s response to the pandemic.
The blood samples and data from the questionnaires will subsequently be analysed following which the results will be publicly released to the nation.
Similar surveys are being conducted globally to ascertain, more accurately, the impact of COVID-19 and infection rates.
The HSRC-led research consortium would like to request all the randomly pre-selected households to participate in this survey in order to obtain more reliable findings. The results of the survey will be used to assist the government in both planning and development of the national response to the COVID-19 epidemic in the country.
Epicentre was founded in 2001 and is an independent organisation that is committed to creating a positive impact on the health and wellness in South Africa. Epicentre aims to close the gap between unscreened, undiagnosed, and uncontrolled HIV & COVID-19 infections as well as other chronic diseases.
About the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 to conduct and fund health research, health innovation, development and research translation. The SAMRC focuses on the top ten causes of mortality, co-morbidities, disability and associated risk factors. The scope of research includes laboratory investigations, pre-clinical and clinical research, and public health studies.
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