WITH China opening up its borders, the world officially enters a new normal era. Let’s live with the COVID-19 virus.
The World Health Organization recently updated its guidelines on the new normal. Basically, it’ still mask, mask, mask.
2 Hollywood A-Listers get COVID
You all have probably watched the Golden Globes 2023 last week. Many Hollywood stars, media and production staff were no longer wearing masks.
However, a number of celebrities who attended the awards night have reported to have contracted the COVID-19 virus. Although it is hard to say if they have indeed gotten the virus during the awards ceremony.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had also made wearing of masks voluntary only except inside hospitals or clinics. Many countries around the world are also ditching masks.
WHO: Use masks in ‘specific situations’
But the WHO said “given the current spread of the COVID-19 globally,” it is recommending that people use masks in “specific situations.”
“Masks continue to be a key tool against COVID-19,” the WHO said.
The WHO said “irrespective of the local epidemiological situation,” people should still wear recommend masks on the following situations:
- when recently exposed to COVID-19
- when someone has or suspects they have COVID-19
- when someone is at high-risk of severe COVID-19
- when in a crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated space
There other instances when a mask may be recommended, based on a risk assessment by local health officials. These factors include:
- local epidemiological trends
- rising hospitalization levels
- levels of vaccination coverage
- immunity in the community
- setting people find themselves in
How long should isolation period be?
If a COVID-19 patient tested negative in an antigen-based rapid test, he/she can be discharged from isolation already.
Isolation can be done at home or at any isolation facility like hospital or clinic.
In the absence of testing, patients with symptoms should be isolated for 10 days from the onset of symptom.
This is a shortened isolation period from the previous WHO recommendation of 10 days after symptom onset, plus at least three additional days if there are no longer symptoms.
For those who tested positive initially but do not exhibit any signs or symptoms, the WHO suggests only five days of isolation in the event there is no available second testing.
Based on the evidence presented to the WHO experts panel, “people without symptoms are much less likely to transmit the virus than those with symptoms.”
People with symptoms discharged at day 5 following symptom onset risked infecting “three times more people” than those discharged at day 10.
Isolation continues to be an “important step” in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the WHO stressed.
The WHO said they are extending its “strong recommendation” for doctors to use nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (also known by its brand name ‘Paxlovid’) for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 cases and are at “high-risk of hospitalization.”
As for pregnant or breastfeeding women with non-severe COVID-19, the WHO is ambivalent on its recommendation. It said available data shows there are “likely benefits’” of using Paxlovid and that there is “a lack of adverse events” reported among pregnant and breastfeeding women volunteers during trials.
However, WHO said pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with their doctor to determine whether they should take this drug.
No go-signal still for monoclonal antibodies treatment
The WHO is still not giving the go-signal for doctors to use two monoclonal antibodies medicines — sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a laboratory meant to stimulate your immune system. There have been published studies showing the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies for Delta variant. However, its effectiveness diminishes with the Omicron variant.
“There are currently 6 proven treatment options for patients with COVID-19, three that prevent hospitalization 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,” the WHO said.
The China factor
The United Nations agency said “independent, international experts” considered the latest available evidence and changing epidemiology when they issued this new set of guidelines.
Based on the data shared to them by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the predominant COVID-19 variant that is circulating is the Omicron, specifically BA.5.2 and BF.7. These two sub-lineages account for 97.5 percent of locally-acquired infections from December 2022 to January 12, 2023.
China’s abrupt pivot from zero-COVID policy to living-with-the-virus policy caused a surge in the Omicron infections. From December 8, 2022 to January 12, 2023, a total of 59,938 deaths were recorded.
The WHO said the “rapid and intense wave” of COVID-19, impacting older people and with those with co-morbidities — is similar to the waves of infection experienced by other countries. It noted that there is a decline in case numbers, hospitalizations, and those requiring critical care in China.
While the WHO appreciates the data shared by China, it has requested for more such as:
- detailed breakdown of data by province over time
- genome sequences with open access databases such as GISAID for deeper phylogenetic analyses
- continued collaboration with technical groups working on virus evolution, clinical care, and beyond
Photo courtesy: Jamie Lee Curtis Instagram