Forbes: Asymptomatic COVID-19 spreaders still a possibility

Forbes: Asymptomatic COVID-19 spreaders still a possibility

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Despite recent comments from the World Health Organization (WHO) over the ability of asymptomatic individuals to spread the coronavirus, health officials warn that there are still pockets of those individuals who can spread the virus locally.

National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Director Dr Nikkiah Forbes said: “I can tell you that certainly in The Bahamas, we know when we did our contact tracing that there are asymptomatic people with COVID-19 who did infect other people who are their close contacts,”

“So it is absolutely plausible that the virus that can cause COVID-19 can be spread by persons who are asymptomatic.”

During a media briefing in Geneva on Monday, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response and head of its emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, noted that “it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a second individual.”

The next day, Van Kerkhove sought to clarify those observations, indicating that she was referring to two particular studies and that the issue is still  “a major unknown.”

Forbes noted that it remains unclear how many people in any given population are asymptomatic with COVID-19. She said while the low-level transmission seen in The Bahamas is largely due to the nationwide lockdowns, globally there are more than 7.2 million COVID19 cases and over 300,000 people have died.

“What I would say is that we have to remember as our borders are opening up, COVID-19 is here to stay,” she continued.

“…There are still probably small pockets of people who are asymptomatic and we have to remember that we have to do all we can in steps, especially as we open up and things return more to less restrictions, people are going to be in offices again and there’s going to be travel.

“If we want to prevent a second wave and we can do that, it’s going to depend on individuals and the thing they do.”

She underscored that individuals must continue to wear masks, wash their hands, and practice physical distancing by avoiding closed spaces, crowds, and contact.