COVID-19 update

The COVID-19 outbreak in China has spread to other parts of the world, and Africa has reported its first confirmed case over the past weekend in Egypt. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, continues to monitor COVID-19 trends and surveillance globally. As of 17 February 2020, the NICD has tested 46 individuals meeting the case definition for a person under investigation (PUI) in South Africa, and all SARS-CoV-2 results have come back negative. We can confirm that South Africa has not reported any case of COVID-19.

When investigating any outbreak or epidemic, the NICD develops case definitions based on currently available information. As a cautionary measure, in addition to testing cases meeting the PUI case definition, the institute has conducted broadened testing for SARS-CoV-2 to include additional individuals that fall outside the clinical case definitions. Of a total of 83 tests conducted on individuals from within South Africa, 46 met the case definition for COVID-19 PUI and 37 did not. The NICD remains on high alert for any suspected cases of COVID-19 and has been following up on information from health care professionals and the public toll-free number.

We wish to ensure the public that our SARS-CoV-2 real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays are the same as those being used in other international public health laboratories. We include a number of laboratory controls with each test to control for specimen quality, correct functioning of the laboratory reagents and to monitor for contamination, to ensure accurate results.

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