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S Afr Med J ; 112(5b): 361-365, 2022 05 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1897101


By May 2021, South Africa (SA) had experienced two 'waves' of COVID-19 infections, with an initial peak of infections reached in July 2020, followed by a larger peak of infections in January 2021. Public health decisions rely on accurate and timely disease surveillance and epidemiological analyses, and accessibility of data at all levels of government is critical to inform stakeholders to respond effectively. In this paper, we describe the adaptation, development and operation of epidemiological surveillance and modelling systems in SA in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, including data systems for monitoring laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, mortality and recoveries at a national and provincial level, and how these systems were used to inform modelling projections and public health decisions. Detailed descriptions on the characteristics and completeness of individual datasets are not provided in this paper. Rapid development of robust data systems was necessary to support the response to the SA COVID-19 epidemic. These systems produced data streams that were used in decision-making at all levels of government. While much progress was made in producing epidemiological data, challenges remain to be overcome to address gaps to better prepare for future waves of COVID-19 and other health emergencies.

COVID-19 , Epidemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Government , Humans , Public Health , South Africa/epidemiology
Embase; 2021.
Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-336070


Introduction: Globally, there have been more than 404 million cases of SARS-CoV-2, with 5.8 million confirmed deaths, as of February 2022. South Africa has experienced four waves of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, with the second, third, and fourth waves being driven by the Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants, respectively. A key question with the emergence of new variants is the extent to which they are able to reinfect those who have had a prior natural infection. We developed two approaches to monitor routine epidemiological surveillance data to examine whether SARS-CoV-2 reinfection risk has changed through time in South Africa, in the context of the emergence of the Beta (B.1.351), Delta (B.1.617.2), and Omicron (B.1.1.529) variants. We analyze line list data on positive tests for SARS-CoV-2 with specimen receipt dates between 04 March 2020 and 31 January 2022, collected through South Africa's National Notifiable Medical Conditions Surveillance System. Individuals having sequential positive tests at least 90 days apart were considered to have suspected reinfections. Our routine monitoring of reinfection risk included comparison of reinfection rates to the expectation under a null model (approach 1) and estimation of the time-varying hazards of infection and reinfection throughout the epidemic (approach 2) based on model-based reconstruction of the susceptible populations eligible for primary and second infections. Results: 105,323 suspected reinfections were identified among 2,942,248 individuals with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 who had a positive test result at least 90 days prior to 31 January 2022. The number of reinfections observed through the end of the third wave in September 2021 was consistent with the null model of no change in reinfection risk (approach 1). Although increases in the hazard of primary infection were observed following the introduction of both the Beta and Delta variants, no corresponding increase was observed in the reinfection hazard (approach 2). Contrary to expectation, the estimated hazard ratio for reinfection versus primary infection was lower during waves driven by the Beta and Delta variants than for the first wave (relative hazard ratio for wave 2 versus wave 1: 0.71 (CI95: 0.60-0.85);for wave 3 versus wave 1: 0.54 (CI95: 0.45-0.64)). In contrast, the recent spread of the Omicron variant has been associated with an increase in reinfection hazard coefficient. The estimated hazard ratio for reinfection versus primary infection versus wave 1 was 1.75 (CI95: 1.48-2.10) for the period of Omicron emergence (01 November 2021 to 30 November 2021) and 1.70 (CI95: 1.44-2.04) for wave 4 versus wave 1. Individuals with identified reinfections since 01 November 2021 had experienced primary infections in all three prior waves, and an increase in third infections has been detected since mid-November 2021. Many individuals experiencing third infections had second infections during the third (Delta) wave that ended in September 2021, strongly suggesting that these infections resulted from immune evasion rather than waning immunity. Conclusion: Population-level evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is associated with substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection. In contrast, there is no population-wide epidemiological evidence of immune escape associated with the Beta or Delta variants. This finding has important implications for public health planning, particularly in countries like South Africa with high rates of immunity from prior infection. Further development of methods to track reinfection risk during pathogen emergence, including refinements to assess the impact of waning immunity, account for vaccine-derived protection, and monitor the risk of multiple reinfections will be an important tool for future pandemic preparedness.

Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326899


A new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, Omicron (B.1.1.529), has been identified based on genomic sequencing and epidemiological data in South Africa. Presumptive Omicron cases in South Africa have grown extremely rapidly, despite high prior exposure and moderate vaccination coverage. The available evidence suggests that Omicron spread is at least in part due to evasion of this immune protection, though Omicron may also exhibit higher intrinsic transmissibility. Using detailed laboratory and epidemiological data from South Africa, we estimate the constraints on these two characteristics of the new variant and their relationship. Our estimates and associated uncertainties provide essential information to inform projection and scenario modeling analyses, which are crucial planning tools for governments around the world.