On Tuesday, June 16, 2020, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spotted a WhatsApp viral video. According to the video, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that asymptomatic Coronavirus patients do not transmit the virus to other people.
The message accompanying the video of three minutes and six seconds read that there is a turning point as WHO has said that COVID-19 asymptomatic patients need no isolation.
The message also said that the world had been deceived into practising social-distancing and wear face-masks while millions of jobs and trillions of dollars were lost.
An Investigation by CDD fact-checkers revealed that the claim is hinged on a video of Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her comments in the video, Kerkhove said: “In the data that we have, it’s still rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”
The claim used Maria’s seven seconds response to justify that the international organisation has created confusion and deceived people – forcing them to adhere to several measures – since the disease outbreak.
Further checks revealed that Maria’s comment was blown out of context as she did not say asymptomatic patients need no isolation and made no comments on wearing a face mask or maintaining social distancing.
In reports published by statnews on June 9, 2020, “Maria Van Kerkhove acknowledged that her use of the phrase, “very rare,” had been a miscommunication.
She said she had based that phrasing on findings from a small number of studies that followed asymptomatic cases and tracked how many of their contacts became infected.
According to Maria, she never meant to imply that, “asymptomatic transmission globally” was rarely happening, because that is yet to be determined.
The WHO official said COVID-19 carriers not showing symptoms can spread the virus, whether they ultimately feel sick or not.
She also added that wearing masks and keeping a social distance is so important in limiting transmission.
Explaining further, Van Kerkhove said that when health officials review cases that have initially been reported to be asymptomatic.
“We find out that many have really mild disease,” Maria said, adding that there are some infected people who are truly asymptomatic and countries practising detailed contact tracing are “not finding secondary transmission onward,” from those cases.
“It’s very rare,” she said.
Giving a broader clarification on the claim in a report published by the Guardian that she suggested asymptomatic patients don’t transmit the virus, Maria Van Kerkhove said “I used the phrase ‘very rare’ and I think that it’s a misunderstanding to state the asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. What I was referring to was a subset of studies. I was also referring to some data that isn’t published.”
World Health Organizations did not say asymptomatic patients cannot transmit Coronavirus and need no isolation.
The international organisation did not also say that people have been deceived into maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks.
CDD is, therefore, urging the public to disregard the message and stop sharing unverified claims.