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As new Omicron subvariant spreads, WHO backs mask wearing on long flights


Countries should consider recommending passengers wear face masks on long-haul flights to combat the latest Omicron sub-variant as it spreads rapidly in the United States, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said. ) said Tuesday.

In Europe, the XBB.1.5 sub-variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is being detected in small but growing numbers, WHO/European officials said in a press conference.

Catherine Smallwood, WHO’s senior official for emergencies in Europe, said passengers should wear masks in high-risk places, such as long-haul flights. 19 transmissions.”

U.S. health officials say XBB.1.5 — the most contagious Omicron sub-variant discovered to date — accounted for 27.6% of COVID-19 cases in the United States in the week ended on January 7.

It is not yet clear whether XBB.1.5 will cause a worldwide wave of infections. Existing vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalization and death, experts say.

“Countries need to look at the evidence base for testing before departure,” Smallwood said, noting that it is important not to focus exclusively on a specific geographic area.

If action is considered, she said, “our opinion is that travel measures should be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner.”

That doesn’t mean the agency recommends testing for passengers arriving from the United States during this period, she said.

Measures that could be taken include genomic surveillance and targeting passengers arriving from other countries as long as it does not divert resources away from domestic surveillance systems. Others include wastewater monitoring systems around points of entry, such as airports.

Variation of concern will lead to jump in cases

XBB.1.5 is still another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious — and currently dominant globally — variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a clade of XBB, first discovered in October, itself a recombination of two other Omicron sub-variants.


Concerns about XBB.1.5 spurring a flurry of new cases in Canada, the United States and beyond are growing at the same time as a surge in COVID cases in China, after the country turned its back on the virus. its signed “no COVID” policy last month.

According to data reported by WHO earlier this month, an analysis by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the predominance of Omicron subtypes BA.5.2 and BF.7 among acquired infections. must be local.

Many scientists – including from the WHO – believe that China is likely underreporting the true extent of its outbreak.

More than a dozen countries — including Canada and the United States — are requiring travelers from China to be tested for COVID.

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