Update: WHO is now walking back their statement that the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic individuals is “rare.”
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said Tuesday that asymptomatic spread is a “really complex question” and much is still unknown. “We don’t actually have that answer yet.”
“I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. I was just trying to articulate what we know,” she explained on social media. “And in that, I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies.”
It seems like we’ve been getting a lot of mixed signals during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, so, honestly, I’m not sure what to believe, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is now saying that asymptomatic people with the coronavirus are not driving the spread of the virus.
Researchers have previously argued that containing the virus would be extraordinarily difficult because of asymptomatic infections, but WHO officials no longer believe it’s the main way the disease spreads.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of the emerging diseases and zoonosis unit at the WHO.
Van Kerkhove believes that governments should focus on the detection and isolation of infected people, and those they came in contact with.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” she added. “They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare.”
Even CNBC acknowledges that if asymptomatic spread “proves to not be a main driver of coronavirus transmission, the policy implications could be tremendous.”
Asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus was previously used to justify social distancing.
“These findings also suggest that to control the pandemic, it might not be enough for only persons with symptoms to limit their contact with others because persons without symptoms might transmit infection,” a CDC study claimed back in April.
Well, if the WHO says that’s no longer an issue, let’s end the lockdowns! It’s time to rethink this entire strategy and get America back to work. Let’s open up businesses and schools!
“If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts, we would drastically reduce” the outbreak, says Van Kerkhove.
Great, let’s do that. You want me to wear a mask in public for a while just to be extra careful? Fine, I’ll do it. But, enough is enough already, let’s get America open for business again! Clearly, people who aren’t sick don’t need to be shut down in their homes anymore.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis