Viral claims alleging that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken a ‘U-turn’ and said that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients needn’t be isolated or quarantined as they cannot spread the virus are trending again on social media. This claim is sometimes accompanied by a short video clip of the COVID-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, saying that, “It actually seems rare that an asymptomatic person can actually transmit (coronavirus) onward to a secondary individual.”
Twitter users started sharing this clip from the month of June.
The World Health Organization has taken a complete U turn and said that asymptomatic Corona patients neither need to be isolated nor quarantined, nor social of distance, and it cannot even transmit from one patient to another….#COVID19 pic.twitter.com/YFhn61chSf
— மாதிரு (@MathuSpeaks) July 7, 2020
#BreakingNews :#WHO has taken a complete U turn and said that (asymptomatic) #coronavirus patients neither need to be isolated nor quarantined, nor social distanced plus it cannot even transmit from one patient to another.
~ What the hell is WHO's credibility? ~ pic.twitter.com/Dg5X3vWrp9
— 🔥 ∱∪ℕκγβαβα 🔥 (@nillkool9) July 14, 2020
On facebook some accounts started sharing posts with the message, “The WHO has done a complete u-turn… where the head of the organisation says that now we should be following the Swedish model. So it’s absolutely incredible news because the lockdown can end immediately. We can go back to work, we can take the stupid masks off, which were never needed in the first place… “.
While others shared it as a new theory by WHO
A video of Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead COVID-19, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, is also doing the rounds on YouTube. Posted on the channel ‘JayyU.S TV’ it already has approximately 50,000 views.
The viral clip is part of a press briefing held by WHO on June 9.
The viral video of the statement is a piece from the US channel US Newsmax, where the reporters interpreted this as WHO’s official statement that asymptomatic people don’t need to follow social distancing or wear masks.
The second part where the viral video of WHO’s technical lead, Dr Kekhove states in a June 8 press conference that “It actually seems rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits (novel coronavirus) onward to a secondary individual.”
WHO did not say that asymptomatic patients cannot spread coronavirus but that the transmission is “very rare”. This comment was not well-received by the scientific community.
"Since early February, we have said that asymptomatic people can transmit #COVID19, but that we need more research to establish the extent of asymptomatic transmission. That research is ongoing"-@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 10, 2020
WHO on June 10th had tweeted saying, “To some, it came across as if the WHO was suggesting that people without symptoms weren’t driving spread. Some studies, however, have estimated that people without symptoms (whether truly asymptomatic or presymptomatic) could be responsible for up to half of the spread, which is why the virus has been so difficult to contain. Isolating people who are sick, for example, does not prevent the possibility they already passed the virus on to others. Some modeling studies have assumed quite widespread asymptomatic transmission.”
The entire confusion and false claims arised because the statement of Dr Maria Van Kerkhove and WHO in early June were shared out of context in the month of July without checking the dates of the news clips or the WHO press briefing. WHO had already stated about the lack of academic knowledge on the issue and the credibility of these claims.