WHO updates guidance on masks, patient care, and treatment of COVID-19 (13 January 2023)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently updated its guidelines on mask wearing in community settings, COVID-19 treatments, and clinical management.

Key Messages:

Masks remain a key tool against COVID-19

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

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.

What’s changed? Previously, WHO recommendations were based on the epidemiological situation.

Reduced isolation period for COVID-19 patients

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.

What’s changed? 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.

What’s changed? The duration of isolation was 10 days previously.

Isolation of people with COVID-19 can be done at home or at a dedicated facility, such as a hospital or clinic.

COVID-19 treatments

WHO has extended its strong recommendation for the use of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (also known by its brand name ‘Paxlovid’).

Pregnant or breastfeeding women with non-severe COVID-19 should consult with their doctor to determine whether they should take this drug, due to ‘likely benefits’ and a lack of adverse events having been reported.

WHO also reviewed the evidence on two other medicines, 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.

Useful Link:

Link to the related WHO news release:



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