Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist, said in a Live video that there had been "misunderstandings" about her comments made on Monday.
Van Kerkhove said asymptomatic people can in fact spread the virus, though the degree to which they can is unknown.
"We do know that some people who are asymptomatic or some people who don't have symptoms can transmit the virus on," she said. "What we need to better understand is how many people in the population don't have symptoms and, separately, how many of those individuals go on to transmit to others."
"In that I used the phrase 'very rare,' and I think that's a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare," she said. "What I was referring to is a subset of studies."
Experts and members of the public, like Andy Slavitt, former health official under the Obama administration, voiced frustrations at the miscommunication over social media. "First of all I need to say this is exactly what they should do. Clear up a statement as soon as possible. Thanks for that. But this is such a mistake that I’m not sure how or if WHO pronouncements can be covered now," said Slavitt.
"We need our testing, we need officials to be honest with us, [and] we need to know the real science here," Dr. Marc Siegel said on Fox News. "We don’t need anybody jumping to false conclusions and misleading us any further about COVID-19."