The World Health Organization (WHO) has backtracked and attempted to clarify a statement, made by one of their lead scientists, that the transmission of the coronavirus from an asymptomatic person to another person is “very rare.”

American infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead of COVID-19 response at the WHO, said at a press conference on Monday that, “From the data we have it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”

“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” Kerkhove continued. “They’re following asymptomatic cases; they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It is very rare – and much of that is not published in the literature… It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.”

After Kerkhove made the comments, many were shocked since the worldwide lockdowns over the past several months were predicated on the idea that asymptomatic people with COVID-19 could spread the virus. If that kind of transmission was rare, as Kerkhove indicated, then what was the point of quarantining healthy and asymptomatic people?

Shouldn’t only COVID-19 positive people with symptoms then be quarantined?

Recognizing the reaction, Dr. Kerkhove backtracked on Tuesday stating that as for the possibility of asymptomatic spread, “We don’t actually have that answer yet… I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies.”

Dr. Kerkhove also noted that she was not stating the policy of the WHO in her answer on Monday.

It’s unclear why Dr. Kerkhove’s position on Monday, and subsequent backtrack, would be different from official WHO policy since she is WHO’s technical lead of COVID-19 response.

This dustup is just the latest in a string of missteps in WHO’s response to COVID-19.

The Daily Citizen reported on May 29, 2020 that President Trump had decided to redirect the $450 million that the United States contributes annually away from the WHO and towards others health organizations. The decision was made after the WHO failed to make reforms that were requested by the Trump administration due to 17 different failures in its coronavirus response.

For example, on January 14, 2020, WHO tweeted that China had found, “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”

Many Americans, along with millions of others around the world, remain baffled as to why the largest intergovernmental agency tasked with protecting the world’s health has had an inept response to the pandemic.

It remains to be seen whether Dr. Kerkhove’s comments will change how quickly state governors choose to reopen their economies and rescind lockdown orders.


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