After months of lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation on the advice of the World Health Organization, that same international health group has said that the spread of the virus from those who do not have symptoms is in fact very rare, according to CNBC.
The WHO has advised that governments should worry only about finding those who have symptoms, not those who may be infected without symptoms, and should isolate those who show signs of infection, as opposed to those who do not.
While the WHO notes that their early advice was based on indications that the virus was able to spread from person to person even if an infected person did not show symptoms, they now say that this kind of spread is "very rare."
It was a report from the US CDC in April that said that those who were not experiencing symptoms were still a danger, and insisted that social distancing was necessary to save lives.
If that was not the case, it may be that massive economic and societal closures were not necessary.
The study went on to say that, "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."
It was on this advice that schools, businesses, places of worship, and generally all of society was shut down lest people might spread a virulent deadly plague. Early modeling numbers from the Imperial College of London that predicted massive casualties, different from normal annual flus, have also proven to be incorrect.
Officials with WHO say that it's not those who appear healthy but are actually infected who are spreading the virus globally. While global populations were told in February and March to act as though they already had the illness, and to quarantine lest they make anyone else ill, it turns out that the likelihood they could infect others was incredibly marginal.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, of the emerging diseases and zoonosis unit at the WHO, said that "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.” This was during a UN briefing in Geneva.
This new understanding of the spread comes as a result of contact tracing, which reaches out to everyone with whom an infected person has been in contact in order to curb the spread.
Van Kerkhove went on to say that, "We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare."
"What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases,” Van Kerkhove said. "If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts, we would drastically reduce" the spread.
It is unclear as yet if this new information will drastically change how governments have been handling the supposed crisis, or if they will continue following the old directives, as they have been doing thus far.