XBB Covid variant: WHO says passengers on long-haul flights should start wearing masks again

XBB Covid variant: WHO says passengers on long-haul flights should start wearing masks again

XBB Covid variant: WHO says passengers on long-haul flights should start wearing masks again

The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that countries advise passengers to wear masks on long-haul flights.

Passengers should be asked to wear masks in high-risk environments such as long-haul flights, said Catherine Smallwood, WHO’s emergency manager for Europe.

“This should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread transmission of Covid-19,” she added.

Countries must also “review the evidence base for pre-departure testing” and implement travel measures “in a non-discriminatory manner”.

The recommendation comes as the new Omicron XBB1.5 subvariant of Covid has spread rapidly in the United States and China has seen an apparent increase in cases following the reversal of its strict zero-Covid policy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the XBB1.5 subvariant accounted for about 27.5% of cases in the United States in the week ending January 7 and is taking over in the Northeast. from the country.

The US disease prevention agency at the top estimated it had climbed to around three-quarters of cases in New England and New York, the report reported. The Wall Street Journal.

The XBB1.5 subvariant is also rapidly increasing in Europe, WHO officials said at a press briefing.

The agency stressed there was “no immediate threat” from Covid in China even as it asked for more information from the country.

The comments come as Chinese embassies have stopped issuing new visas to South Korean and Japanese travelers in apparent retaliation for Covid measures recently imposed by them on travelers from China.

So far, at least 10 countries in Europe, North America and Asia have recently imposed restrictions, as officials worry about the lack of information on the Chinese epidemic and the possibility of emergence of new variants.

The novel XBB1.5 Covid strain, a descendant of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron, has sparked new health concerns around the world. It is a sub-variant of XBB, which is a strain of the Omicron BA.2 variant.

XBB.1.5 has been detected in at least 74 countries and 43 US states, according to epidemic.info, which uses data from the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

“There must be increased surveillance for detection and isolation of new cases,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, an Indian physician and chairman of the Public Heath Foundation of India. The Independent earlier in December, while warning of superspreader events.

“Given that Covid-19 tests give false negatives, we must also publish the clinical criteria for self-isolation of suspected cases, even when they are negative. People should be advised to wear face masks in crowded places, especially indoors,” he said.

“Crowded events should be avoided, to avoid a super-spreader effect. We must keep our health systems ready for a possible increase in cases. »

Up to 9,000 people are dying of Covid a day in China, where infections rose dramatically after the country ended strict isolation rules, according to UK-based health experts.

Explaining the evolving situation in China, American public health scientist Eric Feigl-Ding, who is the head of the Covid task force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, recounts The Independent that a large part of the Chinese population has not acquired immunity through vaccinations or infections, which has led to a surge.

Any strain will wreak havoc in China, he said. “Because China had a zero-Covid policy. But now that they’ve opened the doors, it could spell disaster. But for the rest of the world, it depends on the variant.

“China is the last country in the world where there has been a high number of uninfected people. Whereas most countries had opened up to some extent and had a surge,” he said.

“Also, the new variants are very evasive” against vaccines, he said, adding that China’s major vaccines – Sinovac and Sinopharm – are “notoriously [the] the weakest of all major vaccines in the last two years in terms of antibody level.”

He also criticized China’s increase rates, especially among the elderly, saying “there are about 130 million elderly people in China who do not have a third vaccine or less.”

“They also don’t have vaccines suitable for Omicron that Europe uses,” he said. “It’s a combination of these things that leads to the rapid spread of Covid in the country.”

The outbreak has prompted the UK and US governments to require all passengers arriving in their respective countries from China from January 5 to return a negative Covid result before travelling. India, neighboring China, has also ordered random testing of international passengers arriving at its airports.

India will not be exposed to the same risk as China because it has already experienced a wave that has impacted individual immunity, according to Dr Feigl-Ding.

“Apart from Wuhan and those in other pockets, China has never had a wave of exposure.”

“The other thing that would worry me is exports. China exports a lot. And that could affect a lot of production, so I think there will be economic fallout, if not Covid fallout,” he said. -he explains.

“Tracing new variants is key. And we have to do a lot of genomic sequencing. Because not all Covid variants are the same.

“Because if you were infected with Covid a year and a half or two ago, your protection against Covid is much lower now because immunity wanes over time,” he said.

“Second, the virus learns to be more evasive. You know, at first because no one was infected, the virus spread as fast as it could. But now the virus is spreading by being more evasive.

“If you think about how the original Omicron spread in South Africa, no one had heard of it in November 2021. And at the end of November, Omicron exploded. In December and January, he conquered the world.

“Therefore, you need to monitor them by genomic sequencing,” he said, while warning against more variants. “The XBB strain is really bad. It could cause another wave in New York, which it is. It’s not just Covid, but what strain of Covid is causing havoc.

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