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9 Jun, 2020 17:18

NOT ‘very rare’: WHO WALKS BACK claim on asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus

NOT ‘very rare’: WHO WALKS BACK claim on asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus

The World Health Organization has qualified its bombshell claim that asymptomatic people rarely infect others with Covid-19, scrambling to explain how its earlier statement was misinterpreted and based on a “misunderstanding.”

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.

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.”

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

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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. 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.

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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.

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