Mask up, WHO Urges as it Cuts COVID-19 Isolation Recommendation

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for stricter masking policies and reduced isolation time recommendations for people with COVID-19 isolation, the organization announced on Friday.

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have signs or symptoms are now recommended to isolate for five days in the absence of testing, WHO suggested – compared to the 10 days it previously recommended.

“Patients without symptoms are much less likely to transmit the virus than those with symptoms,” WHO said.

The organization advises that COVID-19 patients who test negative on an antigen-based rapid test may leave isolation early. People who have symptoms but do not test should isolate for 10 days from the date of symptom onset. This is an update from WHO’s previous recommendation that these individuals isolate for at least three additional days after their symptoms have been resolved.

In contrast, WHO has called for stricter masking policies, recommending the use of masks irrespective of the local epidemiological situation.

“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,” WHO wrote in a release.

At the same time, WHO did say there are instances when masks might be suggested based on a high-level of risk, such as being in a place with increased infection and hospitalization levels or lower levels of vaccination.

Finally, WHO stressed that it recommends the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid or its generic equivalent, Hetero’s COVID-19 oral drug Nirmacom, for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of developing severe disease or being hospitalized.

It does not recommend two other treatments – sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab – because these monoclonal antibody medicines “lack or have diminished activity against the current circulating virus variants.”

Image Credits: Flickr/Nicolò Lazzati, IPPR.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.