As new Omicron subvariant spreads, WHO backs masks sporting on lengthy flights

International locations ought to take into account recommending passengers put on masks on long-haul flights to counter the newest Omicron subvariant given its speedy unfold in the US, World Well being Group (WHO) officers stated on Tuesday.

In Europe, the XBB.1.5 subvariant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is being detected in small however rising numbers, WHO/Europe officers stated at a press briefing.

Passengers must be suggested to put on masks in high-risk settings corresponding to long-haul flights, stated WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, including: “This must be a suggestion issued to passengers arriving from anyplace the place there’s widespread COVID-19 transmission.”

XBB.1.5 — probably the most transmissible Omicron subvariant that has been detected to this point — accounted for 27.6 per cent of COVID-19 circumstances in the US for the week ending Jan. 7, U.S. well being officers have stated.

It stays unclear if XBB.1.5 will trigger its personal wave of infections world wide. Present vaccines proceed to guard towards extreme signs, hospitalization and dying, consultants say.

A passenger sporting a face masks prepares to board a airplane on the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, Belgium, on this June 2020 picture. (Francisco Seco/The Related Press)

“International locations want to take a look at the proof base for pre-departure testing,” Smallwood stated, noting it was essential to not focus completely on one specific geographic space.

If motion is taken into account, she stated, “our opinion is that journey measures must be carried out in a non-discriminatory method.”

That didn’t imply the company beneficial testing for passengers coming from the US at this stage, she stated.

Measures that may be taken embrace genomic surveillance, and concentrating on passengers arriving from different international locations so long as it doesn’t divert sources away from home surveillance methods. Others embrace wastewater monitoring methods round factors of entry, corresponding to airports.

Considerations variant will result in leap in circumstances

XBB.1.5 is yet one more descendant of Omicron, probably the most contagious — and now globally dominant — variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s an offshoot of XBB, first detected in October, which is itself a recombinant of two different Omicron subvariants.


Considerations about XBB.1.5 fuelling a recent spate of circumstances in Canada, the US and past are on the rise similtaneously a surge of COVID circumstances in China, after the nation pivoted away from its signature “zero COVID” coverage final month.

In line with information reported by WHO earlier this month, an evaluation by the Chinese language Middle for Illness Management and Prevention confirmed a predominance of Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 amongst regionally acquired infections.

Many scientists — together with from WHO — imagine China is probably going under-reporting the true extent of its outbreak.

Greater than a dozen international locations — together with Canada and the US — are demanding COVID assessments from travellers from China.

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