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The World Health Organization (WHO) committee will meet on 27 January to decide whether the coronavirus pandemic still represents an emergency on a global level or not, three years after it was declared a public health emergency. WHO spokesperson also confirmed the timing of the meeting at a Geneva press conference.

The Emergency Committee has advised WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who makes the ultimate call on whether an outbreak represents a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern which is the UN agency's highest level of alert.

According to the reports, several leading scientists and advisers to the WHO have said that it may be too early to declare the end of the Covid-19 pandemic emergency phase. It said it could be too early as China has recently reported high levels of infections after the country dismantled its zero-Covid policy.

Meanwhile, countries should consider recommending passengers wear masks on long-haul flights to counter the latest Omicron subvariant of Covid-19 given its rapid spread in the United States, World Health Organisation officials said on Tuesday.

Passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, said the WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, adding: "this should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread Covid-19 transmission".

XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible Omicron subvariant that has been detected so far. XBB 1.5 variant is responsible for 27.6 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the United States, the country officials have said.

It remains unclear if XBB.1.5 will cause its own wave of infections around the world. Current vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, experts say.

(With agency inputs)

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