WHO mask recommendation for long flights. Last Minute WORLD headlines and events
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised countries to recommend wearing a mask on long flights amid the rapid expansion of the new Omicron variant in the US.
According to WHO European officials, the XBB.1.5 subvariant is found in Europe in small numbers, but is increasing.
The WHO said at a press conference that passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk situations such as long flights. Katherine Smallwood, WHO emergency officer for Europe, said this is a mandatory recommendation for travelers arriving from places where COVID-19 is prevalent.
XBB.1.5, one of the most contagious sub-variants of Omicron, accounted for 27.6% of U.S. COVID cases in the week ending Jan. 1.
It is not known whether the XBB.1.5 variant will create its own epidemic wave around the world. Existing vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms of the disease and reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
“We should not get stuck on one geographic area”
Smallwood said countries should look at test data before leaving rather than focusing on one geographic area.
“Our view is that travel measures should be applied in a non-discriminatory manner if action is to be taken,” Smallwood said.
A WHO spokesperson said this does not mean that the WHO currently recommends asking passengers arriving from the US to get tested.
Measures that could be taken, according to the WHO, include genome tracking and targeting travelers from other countries as long as they don’t divert resources from local monitoring systems. Wastewater screening measures around entry points such as airports may also be implemented.
XBB.1.5 is a new sub-variant of Omicron, the world’s most infectious and dominant variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a derivative of XBB, first discovered in October. The XBB was formed by combining two separate Omicron sub-variants.
Concern about XBB.1.5 stems from the possibility that it could trigger a resurgence in US cases coinciding with an increase in COVID cases in China. With the sudden abandonment of the COVID zero policy last month, China quickly moved away from strict measures to prevent the spread of the disease, sparking a new wave of epidemics in the country.
Earlier this month, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that subtypes BA.5.2 and BF.7 were common in local cases, according to data released by the WHO.
However, many scientists, including WHO representatives, believe that China does not share accurate data reflecting the true extent of the epidemic.
More than a dozen countries, including the US, are requesting COVID tests from travelers from China.
On the other hand, a World Health Organization committee will meet on January 27 to decide whether COVID-19 poses a global threat after it was first detected three years ago.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, is making the final decision on whether the pandemic falls under the category of “International Public Health Emergency”. This is the UN health agency’s highest alert level.
Many leading scientists and WHO advisers believe that it would be too early to say that the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is over, given the rise in cases in China.
revenge from china
On the other hand, Beijing is taking a number of steps in response to measures such as travel restrictions and testing requirements for Chinese passengers. China has announced that it will stop issuing tourist visas to travel companies in Japan.
An employee of a Tokyo-based travel company specializing in travel to China said that Chinese authorities have decided to stop issuing all tourist and business visas to Japanese citizens.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said he had no new information on the visa policy and said such policy changes would be posted on the embassy’s website.
China’s action came after Japan tightened its COVID-19 measures to apply to passengers arriving directly from China, a negative PCR test taken at least 72 hours before takeoff and a requirement to be tested upon landing.
The Chinese Embassy in Seoul today also announced that it will stop issuing short-term visas to travelers traveling to China from South Korea.
The embassy said on its official WeChat account that it would reconsider its decision if South Korea lifted “discriminatory restrictions on entry into the country.”
Last week, South Korea began requesting PCR tests from passengers arriving from China.
Accordingly, Chinese passengers must submit a negative PCR test result no later than 48 hours before the start of the trip, or a negative antigen test result no later than 24 hours before the start of the trip. South Korea has also suspended short-term visa procedures for Chinese citizens until the end of the month.
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