Timeline: Ramping up coronavirus testing

Data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) shows that the institute has conducted almost 13 000 tests for Covid-19, as of March 23. 

Between Sunday and Monday, when the number of positive tests jumped from 274 to 402, the NICD data shows that it conducted about 3 500 tests. 

This is a huge increase from the amount of testing in February, when between five and 26 people were being tested each day.  

By the beginning of this year, the NICD was aware of the increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases that have spread across parts of the world.


At the end of January, the NICD announced that it had developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions for doctors and nurses in both the public and the private sectors to better detect, identify and respond to a possible Covid-19 case in South Africa.


By then, its staff were testing. On February 5, the institute released a statement that there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.

“WHO-Afro has announced that, to date, 71 samples have been received by our National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) from all over Africa and all these specimens have tested negative for coronavirus,” reads the statement.


A few days later, the country was told that 56 South Africans had been tested. The next day five more people were tested, then two more. 

It was only after March 6, when the first positive case was identified in the country, that it appears, based on NICD reports, that testing ramped up. 

By March 7 more than 400 people had been tested in a day. But based on the data extracted from the NICD reports, we began testing almost 1000 people a day only when we reached 51 positive cases, and again after we reached 116 positive cases. 

This was two weeks after the first confirmed case was found in the country. 


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M&G Data Desk
The Data Desk is the centre for data journalism at Mail & Guardian

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