(CTN News) – Given the fast spread of the most recent Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 in the United States, countries should advise travelers to wear masks on long-haul flights, according to World Health Organization (WHO) authorities on Tuesday.
Throughout tiny but increasing numbers, the XBB.1.5 subvariant has been found in Europe, according to WHO and European authorities during a press conference.
According to Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, people traveling from any place where there is significant COVID-19 transmission should be encouraged to use masks in high-risk situations like long-haul flights.
27.6% of COVID-19 cases in the US were caused by Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.
Whether XBB.1.5 would start a new worldwide infectious wave remained unknown. According to specialists, current vaccinations protect against serious symptoms, hospitalization, and death.
Pre-departure testing’s evidentiary foundation has to be examined by countries, and if action is taken, “travel measures should be applied in a non-discriminatory way,” Smallwood said.
According to her, this does not imply that the government now advises testing for American travelers.
Genomic monitoring and passenger screening are possible, provided they do not siphon resources away from domestic surveillance systems.
Other measures include keeping an eye on the wastewater at entrance points like airports.
XBB.1.5 is a variant of Omicron, which causes COVID-19.
Another descendent of Omicron, the COVID-19 virus that is most infectious and now the dominant strain worldwide, is XBB.1.5.
It is a branch of XBB, discovered for the first time in October and is a recombinant of two different Omicron subvariants.
Following China’s departure from its renowned “zero COVID” policy last month, worries about XBB.1.5 sparking a new wave of cases in the United States and elsewhere are rising.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s review of data released by the WHO earlier this month revealed that Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 predominated among locally acquired diseases.
Tuesday saw the release of recommendations for flights between China and the European Union from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), including “non-pharmaceutical measures to reduce the spread of the virus, such as mask-wearing and testing of travelers, as well as monitoring of wastewater as an early warning tool to detect new variants.”
The authorities advise “increased cleaning and disinfection of planes servicing certain routes” and “random testing may also be carried out on a sample of arriving passengers.”
All passengers on flights to and from China should wear face masks, according to a recommendation made last week by the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response group (IPCR), which comprises representatives from the 27 member states of the EU.
Passengers arriving from China should also be randomly tested.
Numerous experts, including those with the WHO, think China is probably understating the full scope of the epidemic.
According to Smallwood, the WHO is aware that China’s COVID-19 death criteria are stringent and “not necessarily the case definition WHO has suggested nations adopt.”
More than a dozen nations, including the US, require COVID testing on Chinese travelers.
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