Given the fast spread of the newest Omicron variant of Covid 19, countries should require air passengers to wear masks on long-haul flights, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially requested.
The XBB.1.5 subvariant has also been found in Europe in modest but increasing numbers, according to WHO and European officials at a press conference.
Passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, according to Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, adding that this should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere COVID-19 transmission is widespread.
According to health experts, the most transmissible Omicron sub-variant found thus far, XBB.1.5, accounted for 27.6% of COVID-19 cases in the United States during the week ending 7 January.
It was unknown if XBB.1.5 would spark its own worldwide outbreak. According to specialists, current vaccinations protect against severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death.
Countries must examine the evidentiary foundation for pre-departure testing, and if action is taken, travel controls must be applied in a non-discriminatory way, according to Smallwood.
At this point, the FDA does not suggest testing for travelers from the United States. Genomic surveillance and targeting travelers from other nations are possible measures as long as they do not drain resources away from local surveillance systems.
Others include monitoring wastewater at entrance sites such as airports.
XBB.1.5 is a descendent of Omicron, the most infectious and now worldwide dominant variant of the COVID-19 virus. It’s a branch of XBB, discovered in October and is a recombinant of two different Omicron sub-variants.
Concerns about XBB.1.5 fuelling a new wave of cases in the United States and elsewhere are growing in tandem with an increase in COVID cases in China after the country’s move away from its iconic “zero COVID” policy last month.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found a prevalence of Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 among locally acquired infections, according to data provided by the WHO earlier this month.