Healthy-looking people spread coronavirus, more studies say

A man runs up steps for a workout near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Healthy-looking people spread coronavirus, more studies say

  • Around 10% of new coronavirus infections may be sparked by people who were infected with the virus but did not experience symptoms
  • In the initial months of the pandemic, health officials based their response on the belief that most of the spread came from people who were sneezing or coughing

NEW YORK: More evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms, complicating efforts to gain control of the pandemic.
A study conducted by researchers in Singapore and published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday is the latest to estimate that around 10% of new coronavirus infections may be sparked by people who were infected with the virus but not experiencing symptoms.
In response to recent studies, the CDC changed how it was defining the risk of infection for Americans. The agency’s new guidance, also released Wednesday, targets people who have no symptoms but were exposed to persons with known or suspected infections. It essentially says that anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.
That reinforces the importance of social distancing and other measures designed to stop the spread, experts said.
“You have to really be proactive about reducing contacts between people who seem perfectly healthy,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, a University of Texas at Austin researcher who has studied coronavirus transmission in different countries.
The new study focused on 243 cases of coronavirus reported in Singapore from mid-January through mid-March, including 157 among people who hadn’t traveled.
Researchers found that so-called pre-symptomatic people triggered infections in seven different clusters of disease, accounting for about 6% of the locally-acquired cases.
An earlier study in Hubei province, China, where the virus was first identified, suggested that more than 10% of transmissions could have occurred before patients spreading the virus ever exhibited symptoms.
Researchers are also looking into the possibility that additional cases are triggered by “asymptomatic” people who are infected but never develop clear-cut symptoms, and “post-symptomatic” people who got sick, appear to be recovered, but may still be contagious.
It remains unclear how many new infections are caused by each type of these potential spreaders, said Meyers, who was not involved in the Singapore study but was part of an earlier one focused on China.
CDC officials say they’ve been researching asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections, but the studies are not complete.
In the initial months of the pandemic, health officials based their response on the belief that most of the spread came from people who were sneezing or coughing droplets that contained the virus.


UK PM Boris Johnson condemns George Floyd killing as protesters take to London streets

Updated 15 min 56 sec ago

UK PM Boris Johnson condemns George Floyd killing as protesters take to London streets

LONDON: Thousands of people took to the streets of London on Wednesday to protest the death of George Floyd in US police custody, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the killing and told President Donald Trump that racist violence had “no place” in society.
Protesters, many of them in face masks, defied coronavirus restrictions and held aloft signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Enough is enough!” as they marched from Hyde Park to the Whitehall government district in central London.
Some scuffled with police outside Johnson’s Downing Street office. Others paused and knelt as the procession moved on toward the US embassy, holding “Black Lives Matter” banners and raising clenched fists.
The demonstration is the latest in the British capital since Floyd, an unarmed African-American, died last week after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck.
The incident, which was captured on video by an eye-witness, has provoked global outrage, and seen the officer concerned charged with third-degree murder.
“I’m here because I believe in my rights as a black person,” said one protester, Lisa Ncuka, a 26-year-old student. “This is an important movement.”
“Everybody should be here fighting for equality. It’s not just the US’s problem. It’s the whole world’s problem and we need to come together and spread this awareness.”
“Star Wars” actor John Boyega, who was in the crowd, gave an emotional speech, saying the demonstrators were a “physical representation” of support for Floyd and other victims.
“We can all join together to make this a better world,” he said, urging a peaceful protest.
“Let’s let the United States of America, our black brothers and sisters, know that we’ve got their backs.”


Johnson, who has been accused of racism for his depictions in newspaper columns of black Africans, and Islamophobia over comments about veiled Muslim women, condemned Floyd’s killing.
Asked what his message was to Trump, he told reporters: “My message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is... that racism, racist violence has no place in our society,“
Johnson earlier made his first comments on the case to lawmakers in parliament, calling Floyd’s death “appalling, inexcusable.”
But he dodged questions about whether he had raised the issue directly with Trump, a key ally with whom he is hoping to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.
Johnson also backed the right to protest, but only if they were “lawful and reasonable.”
His comments echoed those of British police chiefs, who earlier issued a joint statement saying they were “appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life.”
But they appealed for people in Britain to “work with officers” as protests spread, just as the coronavirus lockdown is being eased.
“The right to lawful protest is a key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate,” they added.
“But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people.”


Britain has its own fraught history of racism within policing, with a landmark 1999 report finding “institutional racism” in London’s Metropolitan Police force.
The report was commissioned after the racist murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, at a bus stop in south London in 1993.
The police investigation was marred by a catalogue of failures that saw no-one convicted until 2012.
Despite programs of reform, a 2015 study by the Runnymede Trust, an educational charity which aims to promote a successful multi-ethnic Britain, found “systemic and institutional racism persists” within British policing.
“Britain is no stranger to racialized police violence,” it noted.
“Black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system at every level, from arrests to stop and search, to imprisonment, to deaths in custody.”