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As new omicron variant spreads, WHO backs wearing mask at long flights.

As new omicron variant spreads, WHO backs wearing mask at long flights. (1)

Given the recent Omicron subvariant of Covid-19’s rapid growth in the United States, countries should think about advising travellers to wear masks on long-haul flights, according to World Health Organization (WHO) authorities on Tuesday.

According to WHO/Europe authorities at a press briefing, the XBB.1.5 subvariant is being found in Europe in a small but growing number of cases. According to Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s lead emergency officer for Europe, passengers travelling from anywhere where there is significant Covid-19 transmission should be encouraged to use masks in high-risk situations like long-haul flights.

According to US health officials, XBB.1.5, the most contagious Omicron subvariant yet identified, was responsible for 27.6% of Covid-19 cases in the US during the week ending January 7. If XBB.1.5 spreads globally on its own, it has not yet been determined. According to specialists, current vaccines continue to offer protection against serious symptoms, hospitalisation, and death.

Smallwood continued, “Countries need to look at the evidence base for pre-departure testing,” stressing the importance of avoiding a narrow geographic focus. “Our position is that travel measures should be enforced in a non-discriminatory manner,” she stated when action was being discussed.

She continued by saying that at this point, the FDA does not propose testing for travellers arriving from the United States. As long as it does not syphon resources away from domestic surveillance systems, measures like genetic surveillance and targeting travellers arriving from other nations are permissible. A few more are wastewater monitoring systems installed close to points of entry, like airports.

Another ancestor of Omicron, the most contagious and currently dominant version of the virus that causes Covid-19, is XBB.1.5. It is a branch of XBB, which was discovered for the first time in October and is a recombinant of two different Omicron subvariants.

Concerns about XBB.1.5 fueling a new wave of cases in the US and elsewhere are growing concurrently with an increase in Covid cases in China following the country’s departure from its renowned “zero Covid” policy last month.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s review of data released by the WHO earlier this month revealed that Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 predominated among locally acquired illnesses. Numerous scientists, including those with the WHO, think China is probably understating the full scope of the outbreak. More than a dozen nations, including the US, are requiring Covid tests on Chinese visitors.