Johannesburg Vulnerable Due to Low Earlier Virus Infections

The severity of the third wave of coronavirus infections in Johannesburg and the rest of South Africa’s commercial hub of Gauteng may be due to a comparatively low rate of previous infections, according to a blood survey.

A study of samples collected from blood donations in South Africa’s nine provinces in January and May showed that Gauteng had the second lowest prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies, according to the South African National Blood Service.

The samples in Gauteng, collected in May, showed a prior infection rate of 35.1%, compared with 62.5% of those collected in the Eastern Cape province in January, the SANBS said in a statement. The lowest infection rate was in the sparsely populated Northern Cape at 31.8% and the national average was 42.8%.

“We saw comparatively very low antibody levels among donors who presented in Gauteng as compared to other provinces, especially when you consider population density,” Karin van den Berg, medical director of the SANBS, said in the statement. “This could indicate that Gauteng was more insulated from the initial waves of the virus and may in part explain the devastating spread of the virus through Gauteng.”

About two-thirds of daily infections are currently from Gauteng, which also includes the capital, Pretoria. One in four South Africans live in Gauteng and the province accounts for about a third of economic output.

ProvinceAntibody rateSurvey month
Eastern Cape62.5%January
Northern Cape31.8%January
Free State45.5%January
KwaZulu Natal52.1%January
Gauteng35.1%May
Mpumalanga38.1%May
Western Cape37.6%May
North West39.8%May
Limpopo37.9%May
National Average42.8%

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