WHO walks back claim about ‘very rare’ asymptomatic coronavirus transmission 24 hours after misleading the world
Yesterday, we told you about World Health Organization (WHO) after the organization said coronavirus patients without symptoms aren’t driving the spread of coronavirus. The comments came as a surprise to many experts after preliminary evidence indicated that coronavirus could spread even if people didn’t have symptoms.
Just a little over 24 hours after the announcement, WHO on Tuesday walked back comments by a top official who said it was “very rare” for someone to contract the coronavirus from an asymptomatic people. So the question is . why are we still listening to WHO? Back in January WHO said that there is ‘no clear evidence coronavirus is transmitted from human-to-human.’ The organization was later proven to be wrong.
Yesterday, however, Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response and head of the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said coronavirus patients who don’t have any symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the virus.
In a Facebook Live video, Maria Van Kerkhove said asymptomatic carrier can in fact spread the virus, though the degree to which they can is unknown. She also clarified that she was referring to two or three studies when she made her statement on Monday.
“Some estimates of around 40 percent of transmission may be due to asymptomatic [cases], but those are from models. So I didn’t include that in my answer yesterday but wanted to make sure that I made that clear,” Maria Van Kerkhove said during a news conference Tuesday.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Van Kerkhove said. Her commens gave ammunition to critics of lockdowns and social distancing.
Van Kerkhove and WHO officials were singing a different tune Tuesday after other experts questioned he accuracy of her comments. Calling the controversy “a misunderstanding,” Van Kerkhove said that during the news conference Monday, she was trying to respond to a journalist’s question when she said asymptomatic transmission was “very rare.”
Medical experts voiced their frustrations at miscommunication on social media. Andy Slavitt, former health official under the Obama administration, said on Twitter: “First of all I need to say this is exactly what they should do. Clear up a statement as soon as possible. Thanks for that. But this is such a mistake that I’m not sure how or if WHO pronouncements can be covered now.”