International News Jun 9, 2020 6:10 PM EST

WHO reverses yesterday's guidance that asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is 'very rare'

The WHO walked back the claim it made just yesterday that asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is “very rare," now calling it "really complex" instead.

WHO reverses yesterday's guidance that asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is 'very rare'
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta
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On Tuesday, the World Health Organization walked back on the claim it made just yesterday that asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is "very rare." The organization is now calling the question "really complex," reports CNBC.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s head of emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, spoke about the potential of asymptomatic spreading on Monday.

"From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. It's very rare. … We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing," said Van Kerkhove.

Van Kerkhove noted that this finding was as a result of diligent contact tracing efforts. "They're following asymptomatic cases. They're following contacts. And they're not finding secondary transmission onward. It's very rare."

On Tuesday, Van Kerkhove did an about face, and called the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic persons a "really complex question."

Van Kerkhove now says that that models show that up to 40 percent of coronavirus transmission could come from asymptomatic cases.

"We don't actually have that answer yet. There are some estimates that suggest that anywhere between 6 percent of the population and 41 percent of the population may be infected but not have symptoms within a point estimate of around 16 percent," she noted during a Q&A live-stream.

"The majority of transmission is from people who have symptoms and are spreading it through infectious droplets," Van Kerkhove said.

"But there are a subset of people who don't develop symptoms. To truly understand how many people don't have symptoms, we don't actually have that answer yet.”

Executive Director of the emergency program at the WHO, Dr. Mike Ryan said the statements from Van Kerkhove were possibly "misinterpreted or maybe we didn't use the most elegant words to explain that."

"If journalists and the public think we're straying away from evidence, then fine," Ryan said.

"That’s what this is for. If you think there isn’t a basis for what we’re saying then let’s have that debate one-on-one. That’s why we’re here. That was not intended. That was not the intention of the statement."

After Van Kerkhove's statements on June 8, the presses worldwide were filled with the news that the coronavirus was not as contagious as the world had been warned by the World Health Organization. Today, that news has been partially reversed.

The guidance of the WHO has taken many different directions, to the point where the US has officially defunded the international health initiative, opting to use those funds for smaller agencies and NGOs.

The Trudeau government has continued to offer Canada's support for this organization despite their continued confusion as to the coronavirus contagion.

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