Asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus: WHO clarifies

WHO coronavirus lead Maria Van Kerkhove cleared up her previous statement on asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus being 'rare', stating that it was not the official stance of the WHO and the results were from studies that were not very accurate.

asymptomatic transmission

The World Health Organization has qualified its bombshell claim on asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus is rare, scrambling to explain how its earlier statement was misinterpreted and based on a “misunderstanding.” The claim that asymptomatic people rarely infect others had sent the world, and particularly social media, into a frenzy. Health experts feared that it would lead to more congregations and flouting of social distancing SOPs as countries around the world eased their lockdowns.

WHO coronavirus lead Maria Van Kerkhove attempted on Tuesday to clear up controversy around her previous claim that asymptomatic transmission was “very rare,” insisting she had been speaking based on the results of just “two or three” studies. To claim asymptomatic transmission is rare globally would be a “misunderstanding,” she explained.

Asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus: claims based on dubious models

“I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that,” she backpedaled, explaining that asymptomatic transmission estimates come from dubiously-accurate models. “That’s a big open question, and that remains an open question.”

Read more: COVID-19 transmission among new-born babies rare but possible

I think that that’s misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare.

Some 16 percent of infected people may be asymptomatic, she said, citing studies – while some scientific models claim as much as 40 percent of global transmission may come from asymptomatic individuals. Given that sloppy disease modeling has been responsible for some of the most disastrous overreactions to the pandemic, Van Kerkhove’s reluctance to include these supposedly scientific speculations in the previous day’s briefing could be forgiven, but WHO emergency director Mike Ryan acknowledged his colleague’s words were likely “misinterpreted.”

Van Kerkhove’s initial claim that asymptomatic transmission was “very rare,” voiced during a Monday media briefing in Geneva, appeared to turn accepted wisdom regarding Covid-19 on its head, since fear of seemingly healthy people spreading the virus had been used to justify the lockdowns and economic shutdowns that have left many of the world’s economies in ruins.

“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” she had stated, explaining that countries “doing very detailed contact tracing” were “not finding secondary transmission onward” from people not showing symptoms.

Asymptomatic should not be confused with pre-symptomatic

However, even then Van Kerkhove had stressed that “asymptomatic” should not be confused with “pre-symptomatic” – i.e. patients who transmit the virus during the few days before they start showing symptoms, said to be the beginning of their infectious period.

Harvard Global Health Institute had flat-out refused to accept Van Kerkhove’s claim, declaring “all of the best evidence suggests that people without symptoms can and do readily spread SARS-CoV-2” in a statement on Tuesday.

The institute warned that “communicating preliminary data…without much context can have tremendous negative impact” on public and government responses to the pandemic, and indeed, Van Kerkhove’s comments had touched off a chain-reaction of second-guessing, pearl-clutching, and general existential crises among lockdown proponents as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases continues to climb.

Read more: Coronavirus can travel upto 4 meters in air: Twice the distance current guidelines say

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, over 7.1 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, while over 407,000 have died with the virus. While many of the countries that initially locked down to prevent the virus’ spread have either partially or completely relaxed these restrictions, the science remains uncertain on how much the shutdowns helped and how much they hurt public health. The US leads the world in Covid-19 infections, with nearly two million cases, according to Johns Hopkins, while Brazil is second, with over 707,000 as of Tuesday.

Coronavirus across the world: the toll so far

As of today, the global number of people infected by the Novel Coronavirus and suffering from the associated disease COVID-19 has crossed 7 million. There have been 401,000 deaths associated with the disease. A statistic to take heart from is the fact that more than 3.50 million people suffering from COVID-19 have recovered. 

COVID-19 associated lockdowns have caused a slowdown in the international economy, with experts saying that it will shrink by as much as 6% this year. Estimates do not show it recovering before 2022. The World Bank has also sounded the alarm over the dismal economic situation that the world finds itself in, and has asked fiscal policy makers the world over to pay special attention to the economic fallout forecasted amid the pandemic.

RT with additional input by GVS News Desk

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