A new study by the National Blood Service (NBS) into COVID-19 presence in donated blood estimates that more than half the population has had COVID-19.
The study didn’t examine blood from every province. Rather between January 7 – 25, some 4 858 blood donors were tested for antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19. These antibodies are only present in those who have been infected, even if they didn’t know it.
The tests were done in four provinces: 1457 in the Eastern Cape, 463 in the Northern Cape; 831 in the Free State; and 2107 in KwaZulu-Natal. Extrapolating their results to the whole population, the researchers estimated that 63% of people in the Eastern Cape have been infected since the epidemic started, 32% in the Northern Cape, 46% in the Free State and 52% in KwaZulu-Natal.
In addition to the provinces, the study also identified the different infection rates between races. This is because race is the shorthand most studies use in South Africa to identity socio-economic differences as a result of our racist history.
The study found that in the places where they tested, black people were three times (in the Northern Cape) and five times (KwaZulu-Natal) more likely to have antibodies than white people.
“Our study demonstrates substantial differences in dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 infection between different race groups, most likely explained by historically-based differences in socio-economic status and housing conditions,” the researchers wrote.
It was noted that this small selection is not exactly representative of the country.
“It seems plausible that these estimates are reasonably generalisable to actual population level anti-SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence, but should be further verified,” they said.