WHO Recommends Travelers to Wear Masks as New Covid Variant “XBB.1.5” Spreads

The World Health Organization (WHO) urged travelers to wear masks on long-haul flights on Tuesday, citing the rapid spread of the newest Omicron subvariant of Covid-19 in the United States.

XBB.1.5, a novel omicron subvariant first sampled in the fall in New York state, is now the most common Covid-19 strain in the United States and is poised to spread globally. Therefore, the health organization has advised travelers to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights.

Officials have reported that 27.6% of Covid-19 cases in the US for the week ending January 7 were XBB.1.5, the most transmissible Omicron subvariant discovered so far.

It was unclear whether XBB.1.5 will spark its own global outbreak. Experts agree that current vaccines continue to offer protection against life-threatening complications, hospitalization, and death.