Confusion in the times of coronavirus: WHO is a poor example to follow

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Jun 11, 2020, 07:10 AM(IST)

World Health Organisation Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

A top WHO official on Tuesday clarified her remarks that transmission of the new coronavirus from asymptomatic carriers was "very rare", citing a "misunderstanding".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is turning out to be a big disappointment -- as it keeps flip-flopping on its statements despite being the global standard of health and health-related guidelines.

A top WHO official on Tuesday clarified her remarks that transmission of the new coronavirus from asymptomatic carriers was "very rare", citing a "misunderstanding".

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, had said that on the basis of studies carried out in several countries, transmission of the virus by an asymptomatic person seemed "very rare".

"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," she told a virtual press conference on Monday.

Her remarks, which were widely relayed on social media networks, sparked a reaction from part of the scientific community.

"Contrary to what the WHO announced, it is not scientifically possible to affirm that asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2 are not very infectious," an expert said.

Another said she was quite surprised.

To this end, Van Kerkhove later posted on Twitter a WHO summary on transmission.

"Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic individuals are difficult to conduct, but the available evidence from contact tracing reported by member states suggests that asymptomatically-infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms," it said.

And again, during a discussion rebroadcast Tuesday on the WHO's Twitter account, Van Kerkhove said she wanted to clarify a misunderstanding.

"I was referring to very few studies, some two or three", and answering a question.

"I was not stating a policy of WHO," she said.

"I used the phrase 'very rare', and I think that is a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. What I was referring to was the subset of studies," she added.

The point we stress here is not the mistake; but its gravity.

The world needs to understand the risks asymptomatic cases pose.

And this is not the first time the WHO has retraced a statement.

When it was first asked about the necessity of masks, it refuted they were of any importance. But five months and 7 million cases later, it decided masks were mandatory for survival.

In a nutshell, a confusion like this in the middle of a pandemic is not a good sign. Remember, the virus is still spreading.

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