The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said countries should consider recommending that passengers wear masks on long-haul flights, given the rapid spread of the latest Omicron subvariant of Covid-19 .
Passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, said the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, adding: “this should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread COVID-19 transmission”.
XBB.1.5 – the most transmissible Omicron subvariant detected so far – accounted for 27.6% of COVID-19 cases in the United States for the week ended Jan. 7, health officials have said.
It was unclear if XBB.1.5 would cause its own wave of global infections. Current vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, experts say.
“Countries need to look at the evidence base for pre-departure testing” and if action is considered, “travel measures should be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner,” Smallwood said.
Meanwhile, a World Health Organization committee will meet on Jan. 27 to consider whether the COVID-19 pandemic still represents a global emergency, a spokesperson said on Tuesday, three years after it was first declared.
A World Health Organization committee will meet on Jan. 27 to consider whether the COVID-19 pandemic still represents a global emergency, a spokesperson said on Tuesday, three years after it was first declared.
WHO spokesperson Carla Drysdale confirmed the timing of the meeting at a Geneva press briefing. The Emergency Committee advises WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who makes the ultimate call on whether an outbreak represents a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern which is the U.N. agency’s highest level of alert.
Several leading scientists and WHO advisers say it may be too early to declare the end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency phase because of high levels of infections in China which dismantled its zero-COVID policy last month.