Survey shows most areas in W. Cape still vulnerable to COVID-19

The Western Cape government has tested for sero-prevalence after the 'second wave' to determine vulnerability for future waves in the province.

A hospital worker and patient with COVID-19 in in the resuscitation room of the COVID-19 ward at Khayelitsha Hospital, about 35km from the centre of Cape Town, on 29 December 2020. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN – A seroprevalence survey in the Western Cape shows that most areas in the province remain vulnerable to COVID-19.

The survey uses antibody tests to estimate the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies against Sars-Cov 2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well those who have been previously infected.

The Western Cape government has tested for seroprevalence after the 'second wave' to determine vulnerability for future waves in the province.

Head of health Dr Keith Cloete said they tested residual 'leftover' convenience samples from patient groups attending health services for non-COVID reasons.

“The samples we tested were people coming to the public sector for diabetes care, then on top of that we took the public sector HIV laboratory tests – which is what we sent off for viral load specimens – then also, public sector children for people that are attending at Red Cross and Tygerberg.”

He explains that high seroprevalence could provide a measure of protection against a significant impact in the third wave and low seroprevalence indicates a risk of potentially a more severe impact.

“We should plan additional mitigation in the rural areas, especially west coast and Overberg, and with our private sector colleagues for people that would be dependent on the private sector because there is more vulnerability in that sector; and access to access to beds with oxygen supply will then be the key planning parameter for the third wave.”

Cloete said the 30-59 age group had the highest seroprevalence and decreases with age, meaning those at highest risk remain vulnerable.

“In a sense, the adult population has got a higher prevalence of antibodies – they were more exposed. The moment you go over 60, and especially when you start approximating 75, those antibodies drop. So, it is the highest in the younger group and it supports the notion that we should start the vaccination with the elderly because they are more susceptible.”

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