News & events


13 May 2021

National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS) requires 19000 participants nationwide

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Pretoria, 12 May 2021 – The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), together with research partners, Epicentre, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), is continuing with the National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS), which started in November, and will end later this month.  This survey is funded by both the Solidarity Fund and the HSRC, and is  fully supported by the National Department of Health.

The survey is being conducted in nine (9) provinces and is anticipated to reach upon completion, 19000 people in 400 communities. The survey aims to understand and generate a national estimate of what proportion of South Africans may have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2  (or COVID-19) virus, including those who may have been infected without knowing either due to being asymptomatic, having mild symptoms, or not being able to access testing facilities.  

Although participation in the survey is entirely voluntary, is it very important that as many people living in South African participate so that the data that is generated is accurate and representative.  The data will inform the country’s response to COVID-19 to ensure lives and livelihoods are protected.

The  NCAS study team will be asking  6030 randomly sampled households to participate in the survey by sharing their experiences about the pandemic and to provide blood samples.  By analysing the  behavioural data and blood samples, the research team will be able to  better understand  the risk factors associated with the virus.  Understanding these risk factors will help inform public health responses to protect the people who are most at risk.  

While South Africa’s vaccination programme is currently being implemented, non-pharmaceutical and behavioural COVID-19 safety protocols must continue to be practiced.  These include the proper wearing of masks, covering the nose and mouth even when in the company of friends and family, avoiding large gatherings, ensuring good ventilation, especially when using public transport, washing of hands and/or sanitising them, and maintaining social distance.

South Africans are urged to therefore continue to diligently implement these safety protocols.  

The research team confirms that the survey is being conducted in full compliance with the national COVID-19 safety protocols.

Notes to the Editor

Research Methodology

•19000 interviews with people over 12 years of age in each of the nine (9) provinces

•Trained field teams will visit selected households and conduct interviews aimed at assessing the history of infection, exposure to contacts, co-morbidities, and practices such as hand washing and social distancing.  The interviews will not be longer than 20 minutes.

•A qualified nurse (phlebotomist) will request a small blood sample from each respondent that will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.  

•The results will be linked to the information provided in the questionnaires to understand how COVID-19 is spread in communities.

The blood samples and data from the questionnaires will subsequently be analysed following which the results will be publicly released to the nation.

Media who are interested in joining the research teams should please contact Manusha Pillai on 082 389 3587 or to make arrangements.


About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences. 

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organizations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

About Epicentre

Epicentre was founded in 2001 and is an independent organisation that is committed to creating a positive impact on the health and wellness in South Africa. Epicentre aims to close the gap between unscreened, undiagnosed, and uncontrolled HIV & COVID-19 infections as well as other chronic diseases. 

About the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases provides  reference microbiology, virology, epidemiology, surveillance and public health research to support the government’s response to communicable disease threats. The NICD serves as a resource of knowledge and expertise of communicable diseases to the South African Government, Southern African Development Community countries and the African continent. The institution assists in the planning of policies and programmes to support and respond to communicable diseases. 

About the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 to conduct and fund health research, health innovation, development and research translation. The SAMRC focuses on the top ten causes of mortality, co-morbidities, disability and associated risk factors. The scope of research includes laboratory investigations, pre-clinical and clinical research, and public health studies. 

About the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS)

The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa, with the responsibility of supporting the national and provincial health departments in the delivery of healthcare. The NHLS provides laboratory and related public health services to over 80% of the population through a national network of laboratories. 

Join the conversation at:

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact: 

Manusha Pillai

Mobile:  082 389 3587



Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Related Articles