Knowledge is Power:

Epicentre’s Top 7 COVID Studies

We count down the top studies we’ve worked on to help South Africa (SA) fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic. Research is crucial in the fight against this virus because our governments and policymakers can’t make good decisions if they don’t know what’s going on, as often our assumptions are wrong. Science has been crucial in this fight and as we throw off our masks in SA we want to celebrate the studies policymakers looked at to inform that decision.


Jan 2021 – Currently paused but scheduled to start again soon.

Where & Who?

Patients who sign up at our Hillcrest (KZN) drive-through testing centre. We also have free testing stations at local clinics.



✔ Evaluate the effectiveness of 3 promising COVID -19 Rapid Antigen diagnostic tests in the South African setting by comparing their effectiveness to a SAPHRA approved rapid COVID-19 antigen and PCR test.

✔ To improve the detection of COVID and understand how it is spreading in urban and rural KwaZulu-Natal.

✔ Guide locally appropriate prevention and clinical care for patients.


The study is ongoing and will continue to collect evidence for future publishing.


The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

How Is This Study Helping?

This study provides easy, safe and free COVID testing to community members in Hillcrest and surrounding. Patients from all walks of life are able to get a test and know if they are infected with COVID within 15 mins.

Many patients use this test to get a certificate that they can use for work, which ensures they will get paid time off. Which is helpful for many people.

This study has also helped get highly effective COVID antigen tests approved in South Africa, which made testing cheaper nationally.

Full Name

The Clinical Evaluation of the PANBIO COVID-19 Antigen Test Study


Jul 2021 – Jan 2022

#6. CATSS Study

Where & Who?

Patients displaying symptoms at our Drive-Through Testing centres in Randburg (GP), Hillcrest (KZN), and Rondebosch (WC). Including a number of pop-ups in Pietermaritzburg and Durban, HollywoodBets Kingsmead Stadium.


✔ Provide discount COVID antigen testing to community members.

✔ Get evidence of how the new PANBIO COVID-19 Antigen Test works to catch COVID-19 positives when compared to a COVID PCR test.




Results have proven the effectiveness of this test, and it is now available for public use. You can see more information on this test cassette here.

How Is This Study Helping?

This clinical trial was an important aspect of South Africa’s response to the pandemic, as we need tests in the country that provide fast results and are proven to work against strains that are common in the country.

This trial also helped by providing fast, safe and affordable tests in all 3 major city centres of South Africa. Discount testing during this time was crucial, as it made getting a proven COVID diagnosis easier for a wider range of South Africans, who there after would know not to expose the people close to them.

#5. Cough Check


Dec 2021 – Present

Where & Who?

Patients in homes within 30 km of our Hillcrest (KZN), Randburg (GP), & Rondebosch (WC)

Self-Testing with 3 in 1 PCR’s for COVID, flu and RSV


✔ Investigate if patients who are sick with COVID, Flu or RSV like symptoms can test. Themselves for these viruses accurately.

✔ Investigate what strains of influenza (flu), COVID-19 and RSV are circulating to inform the NICD which communicates with doctors treating their patients and researchers who are working on the next flu and COVID jabs.


Results have been analysed and will be published soon.


How Did This Study Help?

Cough Check is helping many community members get easy access to COVID-19, flu and RSV in the comfort and safety of their own home.

This study is helping scientists validate the accuracy of self-testing. This will make it easy for people to get tested, even if they live in remote areas from testing labs.

This study is also helping to inform the NICD who will use this information to communicate with doctors and the medical community on which strains of viruses are circulating in South Africa.

#4. Lab Check


Dec 2021 – Mar 2022

Where & Who?

Patients were invited to give blood for science at our branches in Randburg (GP), Hillcrest (KZN) and Rondebosch (WC)

Donating blood to fight COVID


✔ Investigate antibodies to COVID to better understand natural immunity and vaccine immunity after a COVID-19 infection.

✔ Donated blood was used by the NICD to test new types of antigen and antibody test cassettes to ensure they worked against the strains of COVID in South Africa

✔ Understand how antibodies change during a serious infection vs a mild infection

✔ Investigate why some people developed strong antibodies against COVID-19


Results have been analysed and will be published soon.


How Did This Study Help?

Donated blood was used to ensure new, more effective antigen & antibody tests could reach South Africans that needed them the most during the last COVID wave.

Policymakers have more information on how a COVID infection changes a person’s body. They also have more information on natural immunity vs vaccine immunity and can make better decisions because of it.

Scientists will be able to make better predictions on who is most at risk for COVID and what characteristics will give people a better chance of having a mild infection.

#3. IPC


Jan 2022 – Apr 2022

Where & Who?

In Durban and Johannesburg, with the Head of Hospitals.

Understanding if hospital COVID protection worked


✔ Investigate how infection prevention and control measures (like PPE, extensive cleaning & sterilization, etc) may contribute to service disruptions.

✔ Understand how these infection prevention and control measures impact patients.


Results are currently being analysed.


How did Epicentre Collect this Information?

Epicentre specialises in fieldwork. We love gathering data and have a large and strong network of past nurses and field team members to draw upon at a moment’s notice. We also prioritise thinking outside the box, which is a necessity in South Africa.

To do this study, the Epicentre IPC team in Gauteng and KZN made interview appointments with hospital staff. But getting an appointment in a busy hospital in South Africa can be next to impossible. The answer, it’s culturally sensitive in South Africa to bring a thank-you gift and biscuit tins hold a special place in many South African’s hearts

How Did This Study Help?

This study was critical to finding out what the gaps are in how we are currently preventing COVID infections in our country’s hospitals.

We aimed to get information to help SA develop more effective infection, prevention and control protocols (rules), training guides and priority interventions to both support the healthcare response to COVID-19 and be better prepared for future pandemics.

#2. NCAS (1 & 2)

Full Name

The National COVID-19 Antibody Study


(NCAS Wave 1) Oct 2020 – Dec 2020 & (NCAS Wave 2) April 2021 – June 2021

Visiting 19 000 South Africans at the height of COVID

Every red dot is an area our teams visited

Where & Who?

19 000 participants in all 9 South African Provinces.


✔ Investigate South Africa’s herd immunity to COVID.

✔ Get a figure on the percentage of how many COVID infections were asymptomatic.

✔ & understand how many more people we’re infected between these two waves of the study.

How Did This Study Help?

NCAS was the biggest COVID-19 study in South Africa to date because no other study has visited as many people in our country to study the COVID virus.

This study found out key information that shifted policy and disproved a few key assumptions in the health research community and generally in South Africa.

For example, many people thought that the cities like JHB and Cape Town were hit the hardest during the pandemic. But our study showed that whilst CT and surrounding metropolitan areas had a prevalence rate of 25.4%, Mangaung (Bloemfontein) had an infection rate of 29.0%, and Nelson Mandela Bay was sitting at 26.0%.

Information like this is crucial to both our country’s policy decisions and internationally.

Understanding how South Africans coped with COVID

#1. HUTS 1 & 2

Full Name

The Healthcare UTilisation and Seroprevalence Survey


(HUTS Wave 1) Oct 2020 – Jul 2021 & (HUTS Wave 2) Apr 2022 – Jun 2022

Where & Who?

Community members in Edendale, KwaZulu-Natal; Mitchelles Plain, Western Cape; (only HUTS Wave 1) Klerksdorp, North West


✔ Investigate asymptomatic infections in these areas.

✔ understand how COVID impacted people economically.

✔ & Understand how our healthcare system was used during COVID-19.


Results of HUTS 2 being analysed for big release soon!


How Did This Study Help?

HUTS-2 got information on community members that had COVID-19 but did not feel sick or could not go to health services when they got sick.

This information was important to guide policy in the lead up to recent lifting of COVID restrictions, as it gave key information on South Africa’s herd immunity. Without the knowledge that South Africa’s immunity increased to an impressive 94% COVID antibodies in the general population, it would have been impossible for government to justify lifting key restrictions.

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We offer free and heavily discounted tests as they are subsidized by research organizations that are looking to use this anonymous information to investigate various research questions, like can people test themselves for COVID?

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Rapid COVID-19 Antigen/infection testing

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