WHO recommends use of masks in public as COVID-19 resurges globally

AS part of a continuous process of reviewing COVID-19 response, treatment, and management, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has said that nose masks continue to be a key tool against COVID-19 and continues to recommend the use of masks by the public in specific situations.

In a new update, the WHO recommends use of masks irrespective of the local epidemiological situation, given the current spread of the COVID-19 globally.

The WHO also updated its guidelines on mask wearing in community settings, including treatments, patient care and clinical management.

The global health body said that it is working with guideline development groups composed of independent, international experts who consider the latest available evidence and the changing epidemiology.

“Masks are recommended following a recent exposure to COVID-19, when someone has or suspects they have COVID-19, when someone is at high-risk of severe COVID-19, and for anyone in a crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated space.”

The Agency argued that previously, its recommendations were based on the epidemiological situation.

Similar to previous recommendations, WHO advises that there are other instances when a mask may be suggested, based on a risk assessment. Factors to consider include the local epidemiological trends or rising hospitalisation levels, levels of vaccination coverage and immunity in the community, and the setting people find themselves in.

On isolation, WHO advises that a COVID-19 patient can be discharged from isolation early if they test negative on an antigen-based rapid test.

“Without testing, for patients with symptoms, the new guidelines suggest 10 days of isolation from the date of symptom onset. Previously, WHO advised that patients be discharged 10 days after symptom onset, plus at least three additional days since their symptoms had resolved.

For those who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have any signs or symptoms, WHO now suggests 5 days of isolation in the absence of testing, compared to 10 days previously.

Isolation of people with COVID-19 is an important step in preventing others from being infected. This can be done at home or at a dedicated facility, such as a hospital or clinic.

In a review of COVID-19 treatment, the WHO has extended its strong recommendation for the use of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (Paxlovid).

Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir was first recommended by WHO in April 2022 and the Agency strongly recommends its use in mild or moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high-risk of hospitalisation

WHO also reviewed the evidence on sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab, and maintains strong recommendations against their use for treating COVID-19. These monoclonal antibody medicines lack or have diminished activity against the current circulating virus variants.

There are currently 6 proven treatment options for patients with COVID-19, three that prevent hospitalisation in high-risk persons and three that save lives in those with severe or critical disease. Except for corticosteroids, access to other drugs remains unsatisfactory globally.

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