(CMR) In an amazing about-face, a top expert at the World Health Organization on Tuesday walked back her earlier assertion that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare.” The change came after the scientific community stated the earlier comments did not reflect the current scientific research.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove now claims a need to clarify her statements made on Monday's W.H.O briefing now claiming that her original comments were based on just two or three studies and that it was a “misunderstanding” to say asymptomatic transmission was rare globally.
“I was just responding to a question; I wasn’t stating a policy of W.H.O. or anything like that,” she said.
Her initial comments sparked quite a bit of controversy with persons even in the Cayman Islands using it to justify a continued pressuring of the government to rush and re-open the entire country. However, now some 24-hours later she is stated that her assertions were based on transmission models which may not provide an accurate representation. Instead, she now shared:
“That’s a big open question, and that remains an open question,” she said.
Scientists had sharply criticized the W.H.O. for creating confusion on the issue, given the far-ranging public policy implications. Governments around the world have recommended face masks and social-distancing measures because of the risk of asymptomatic transmission.
“All of the best evidence suggests that people without symptoms can and do readily spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 … “Communicating preliminary data about key aspects of the coronavirus without much context can have tremendous negative impact on how the public and policymakers respond to the pandemic.”
scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute said in a statement on Tuesday.
A widely cited paper published in April suggested that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms.
The debate over transmission erupted a day after the W.H.O. said that cases had reached a new single-day global high: 136,000 on Sunday, with three-quarters in just 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia. The virus has already sickened more than 7 million people worldwide and killed at least 405,400, according to a New York Times database.