What are the facts about asymptomatic patients and the transmissibility of COVID-19?

“I am asymptomatic, I do not transfer” – Hon Carlos Ahenkorah 

While the WHO has stated that asymptomatic patients are less likely to transmit the virus, the global health organization and other health experts, have further stated that this knowledge is inconclusive and that global research is ongoing to ascertain this claim. Nonetheless, the CDC has provided evidence-based research on the transmission of the virus by asymptomatic people and how such persons have contributed to the spread of the virus in society.

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While it is true that COVID-19 has been quite dynamic, the transmissibility of the virus remains a constant theme among health experts. It is because of the lack of a definitive statement about the transmissibility of the virus that health experts urge individuals to observe all COVID-19 protocols.  

One of such protocols was reported to have been breached when a COVID-19 positive asymptomatic patient, Carlos Ahenkorah, member of parliament for Tema West and former deputy trades minister, who had been advised by his doctor to self-isolate, admitted to visiting his constituency’s voters’ registration centre where people had gathered to register for new Voter ID cards ahead of the elections in December 2020.

In an interview with Citi Fm, the former minister was asked if he announced to the Electoral Commission staff, with whom he interacted, that he was positive in order for them to be careful. 

In his response, he said:

“I always explain myself this way, that I am asymptomatic, I do not transfer…. If I do not show symptoms, that’s what the WHO says, this time after 10 days you can go without doing any other tests.’’

Mr Ahenkorah’s conduct has since been discussed extensively on mainstream and social media with many calling for his resignation which has been announced by the government.


Health experts on the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients

In a publication on 11 June 2020, the World Health Organisation stated that available evidence from contact tracing reported by countries show that asymptomatic patients are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms. 

The organization further added that, 

“Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic patients are difficult to conduct, as they require testing of large population cohorts and more data are needed to better understand and quantify the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2. 

WHO is, therefore, working with countries around the world, and global researchers, to gain better evidence-based understanding of the disease as a whole, including the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission of the virus”. 

Other reports here, here, also indicate that the WHO and some health experts have stated that research is ongoing and that the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients is rare or unlikely is inconclusive. 

Other public health experts also state that although they “don’t know how much spread is caused by  asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients, there are some telling hints that it is a major driver of this pandemic.”

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a research publication, has also provided evidence on the transmissibility of the virus by asymptomatic people. The research indicated that asymptomatic people have contributed to the rapid spread of the virus in communities.

Dubawa also spoke to a Ghanaian medical expert, Dr Senyo Misroame at Tantra Community Clinic.

Dr Misroame stated that once a person has tested positive, they are required to be in isolation. Misroame added that in practice, patients in the Ghanaian community are not required to leave isolation until after 14 or 21 days when they have been cleared by tests.

He further explained that even though medical experts are not too sure as yet about the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients, it is not safe to take any chances, hence the caution to for people to adhere to safety protocols in each community.

“It is uncertain to know who has the virus or not especially if they do not show symptoms, that is why the protocols of wearing face masks, social distancing, regular handwashing have been advised strongly by health experts,” Dr Misroame said.


The claim that asymptomatic patients do not transfer the virus is misleading. Although the WHO has stated that asymptomatic patients are less likely to transmit the virus than symptomatic patients, the organization has also indicated that evidence about transmissibility is inconclusive, as global research is on about this dimension of the disease. While other medical experts remain uncertain of the transmissibility of asymptomatic people, they insist on the necessity to heed all Covid-19 safety protocols, especially as the CDC has provided an example of transmission of the virus by some asymptomatic carriers of the virus in society.

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