June 7, 2023
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WHO urges travelers to wear masks as new coronavirus variant spreads

LONDON — Nations ought to take into account recommending that passengers wear masks on long-haul flights, given the speedy unfold of the most recent Omicron subvariant of coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) in america, World Well being Group (WHO) officers mentioned on Tuesday.

In Europe, the XBB.1.5 subvariant was detected in small however rising numbers, WHO and Europe officers mentioned at a press briefing.

Passengers ought to be suggested to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, mentioned the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, including: “this should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread COVID-19 transmission”.

XBB.1.5 — probably the most transmissible Omicron subvariant detected up to now — accounted for 27.6% of COVID-19 instances in america for the week ended Jan. 7, well being officers have mentioned.

It was unclear if XBB.1.5 would trigger its personal wave of world infections. Present vaccines proceed to shield in opposition to extreme signs, hospitalization and loss of life, specialists say. “Countries need to look at the evidence base for pre-departure testing” and if motion is taken into account, “travel measures should be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner,” Ms. Smallwood mentioned.

That didn’t imply the company really useful testing for passengers from america at this stage, she added.

Measures that might be taken embrace genomic surveillance, and focusing on passengers from different international locations as lengthy as it doesn’t divert sources from home surveillance methods. Others embrace monitoring wastewater round factors of entry such as airports.

XBB.1.5 is one other 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, itself a recombinant of two different Omicron subvariants.

Issues about XBB.1.5 fueling a recent spate of instances in america and past are on rising amid a surge of COVID instances in China, after the nation pivoted away from its signature “zero COVID” coverage final month.

In accordance to information reported by the 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 domestically acquired infections.

The European Union Aviation Security Company (EASA) and the European Middle for Illness Prevention and Management (ECDC) on Tuesday issued suggestions for flights between China and the European Union (EU) together with “non-pharmaceutical measures to reduce the spread of the virus, such as mask-wearing and testing of travelers, as well as monitoring of waste water as an early warning tool to detect new variants.”

The businesses advocate “random testing may also be carried out on a sample of arriving passengers” and “enhanced cleaning and disinfection of aircraft serving these routes.”

Final week, the EU’s Built-in Political Disaster Response group (IPCR), is a physique made up of officers from the EU’s 27 governments, additionally really useful all passengers on flights to and from China ought to wear face masks and random testing of passengers arriving from China.

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

The WHO is conscious that the case-definition of what counts as a COVID-19 loss of life in China is slender and “not necessarily the case definition that WHO has recommended countries adopt,” mentioned Ms. Smallwood.

Greater than a dozen international locations — together with america — are demanding COVID assessments from travelers from China. — Reuters

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