More than 70% of South Africans have been exposed to COVID-19 - NICD

NICD experts gave a technical overview of how they monitor the flow of data on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

FILE: A Dis-Chem Pharmacy health professional collects a nasal swab for a COVID-19 coronavirus test at a drive-through testing site at a mall in Centurion on 9 April 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said more than 70% of South Africans have been exposed to the coronavirus.

NICD experts gave a technical overview of how they monitor the flow of data on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Up to now there were over 3.3 million laboratory confirmed infections in South Africa, which these researchers said was far below the number of people who have actually contracted COVID-19.

NICD researchers believe, through laboratory confirmed tests, they are really only diagnosing 1 in 10 to 1 in 15 people with COVID-19.

Doctor Michelle Groome, Head of the NICD's Public Health Surveillance and Response Division, explained the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases is a small proportion of the true number of infections.

"There's a lot of asymptomatic infections There's a lot of people that don't test for certain reasons. We know that our testing itself does have some differences by province and private versus public sector as well as just individual choices of where to test or not," Groome said.

Groome cited research regarding people who were previously infected with the coronavirus.

"If we look at our prevalence studies, they really are showing that in excess of 70% of South African have been exposed and have underlying immunity to COVID-19," she said

These medical scientists reiterated that despite the Omicron coronavirus variant's highly infectious nature, this quality does not lead to a corresponding surge in hospitalisations.