Home World News WHO Urges Passengers on Long Flights to Wear Masks as XBB Variant Spreads

WHO Urges Passengers on Long Flights to Wear Masks as XBB Variant Spreads

WHO Urges Passengers on Long Flights to Wear Masks as XBB Variant Spreads


Last Updated: January 11, 2023, 07:58 IST

Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is on the rise and people have been advised to remain cautious even though the numbers are low (Image: Shutterstock)

Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is on the rise and folks have been suggested to stay cautious despite the fact that the numbers are low (Image: Shutterstock)

WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, really helpful that passengers on lengthy flights ought to go for masks due to quick spreading XBB.1.5 subvariant

Countries ought to contemplate recommending that passengers put on masks on long-haul flights, given the fast unfold of the newest Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 within the United States, World Health Organization (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 must be suggested to put on masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, mentioned the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, including: “this must be a suggestion issued to passengers arriving from anyplace the place there’s 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 motion is taken into account, “journey measures must be carried out in a non-discriminatory method,” Smallwood said.

That did not mean the agency recommended testing for passengers from the United States at this stage, she added.

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


XBB.1.5 is another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious and now globally dominant variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. It is an offshoot of XBB, first detected in October, itself a recombinant of two other Omicron subvariants.

Concerns about XBB.1.5 fuelling a fresh spate of cases in the United States and beyond are on rising amid a surge of COVID cases in China, after the country pivoted away from its signature “zero COVID” coverage final month.

According to knowledge reported by the WHO earlier this month, an evaluation by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a predominance of Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 amongst regionally acquired infections.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Tuesday issued suggestions for flights between China and the European Union together with “non-pharmaceutical measures to scale back the unfold of the virus, such as mask-wearing and testing of travellers, as nicely as monitoring of waste water as an early warning instrument to detect new variants.”

The agencies recommend “random testing may also be carried out on a sample of arriving passengers” and “enhanced cleansing and disinfection of plane serving these routes.”

Last week, the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response group (IPCR), is a body made up of officials from the EU’s 27 governments, also recommended all passengers on flights to and from China should wear face masks and random testing of passengers arriving from China.

Many scientists – including from the WHO – believe China is likely under-reporting the true extent of its outbreak.

The WHO is aware that the case-definition of what counts as a COVID-19 death in China is narrow and “not necessarily the case definition that WHO has recommended countries adopt,” mentioned Smallwood.

More than a dozen nations – together with the United States – are demanding COVID checks from travellers from China.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 workers and is printed from a syndicated information company feed)


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