What is seroprevalence testing?

CAPE TOWN- The Department of Health is currently conducting a national seroprevalence study, which could unveil the status of national immunity and that around 12 million South Africans have already been exposed to the virus without showing symptoms or knowing they had it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a seroprevalence survey uses antibody tests to estimate the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies against Covid-19. The results of the survey could help scientists estimate how many people may have been previously infected with the virus.

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says that South Africa has seen a downward trend in Covid-19 cases which could raise the question of the level of immunity that may already be existing in society.

According to the model of Covid-19, the initial seroprevalence studies from convenience samples have shown seroprevalence of between 29% and 40%.

“Interestingly, the revised models currently predict that there are probably about 12 million South Africans in total – detected and undetected – infected with Coronavirus. This translates to about 20% of the population,” said Mkhize.

What could seroprevalence mean for international travel?

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation on Wednesday at 19:00 and there is a possibility he will announce the of relaxing some lockdown regulations, which could indicate the country could go to level 1.

Evidence showing the decline in Covid-19 transmissions and the number of people with antibodies could give government motive to reopen borders for international travel.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is considering to open national borders and based on empirical evidence, South Africa could be moving to lockdown level 1 “very soon”.


Infographic: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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