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Serosurveys for SARS-CoV-2 aim to estimate the proportion of the population that has been infected.


This observational study assesses the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Ontario, Canada during the first pandemic wave.


Using an orthogonal approach, we tested 8,902 residual specimens from the Public Health Ontario laboratory over three time periods during March–June 2020 and stratified results by age group, sex and region. We adjusted for antibody test sensitivity/specificity and compared with reported PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases.


Adjusted seroprevalence was 0.5% (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.1–1.5) from 27 March–30 April, 1.5% (95% CI: 0.7–2.2) from 26–31 May, and 1.1% (95% CI: 0.8–1.3) from 5–30 June 2020. Adjusted estimates were highest in individuals aged ≥ 60 years in March–April (1.3%; 95% CI: 0.2–4.6), in those aged 20–59 years in May (2.1%; 95% CI: 0.8–3.4) and in those aged ≥ 60 years in June (1.6%; 95% CI: 1.1–2.1). Regional seroprevalence varied, and was highest for Toronto in March–April (0.9%; 95% CI: 0.1–3.1), for Toronto in May (3.2%; 95% CI: 1.0–5.3) and for Toronto (1.5%; 95% CI: 0.9–2.1) and Central East in June (1.5%; 95% CI: 1.0–2.0). We estimate that COVID-19 cases detected by PCR in Ontario underestimated SARS-CoV-2 infections by a factor of 4.9.


Our results indicate low population seroprevalence in Ontario, suggesting that public health measures were effective at limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 during the first pandemic wave.


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