Published April 4, 2022 in independent.co.uk
By Saman Javed
The NHS has updated its Covid information page, adding nine new official symptoms of the virus as free testing is axed for most of the population.
The healthcare provider previously listed three official symptoms; a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to the sense of smell or taste.
There are now a total of 12 symptoms, with the NHS adding shortness of breath, feeling more tired than usual, body aches, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and feeling sick or being sick.
It also includes headaches, a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose. A note on website adds: “The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.”
According to the Zoe Covid symptom tracker, a loss of smell and taste is less common among Omicron infections. While a change in senses was in the top 10 symptoms earlier in 2021 – when Delta was the dominant variant – it estimates that now only one in five people experience it.
Both the World Health Organisation and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have had longer symptom lists for some time, but the UK had just three symptoms for almost two years of the pandemic.
News of the change comes days after free universal testing for Covid ended in England on 1 April as part of the government’s plan for living with the virus.
In an update on 29 March, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said that free tests will continue to be available for those at serious risk of illness from Covid. NHS staff and adult social care staff, and others in “high-risk settings”, will also continue to be eligible.
Most of the population will need to purchase tests, with Boots and Superdrug selling lateral flow tests at a starting price of £1.99.
The update to the official list of symptoms has been welcomed by experts, with professor Tim Spector, lead scientist of the Zoe project wrote on Twitter: “NHS official Main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) have finally changed after 2 years of lobbying and Zoe app user input – hurrah! Pity they have the order wrong – but it’s a start and could help reduce infections. thanks ZOE loggers!”
He had previously criticised the government’s “refusal” to recognising a “wider array of symptoms”, suggesting that not officially acknowledging more symptoms could drive up transmission rates.
“The government’s refusal to recognise the wide array of symptoms and to drop isolation advice and testing is likely driving the incredible number of cases we see today,” Spector said.
“Many people are no longer isolating when they have symptoms, either because they feel they don’t have to anymore or because they or their employers still don’t recognise symptoms like runny nose or sore throat as Covid.”
On Friday, the Office for National Statistics said that 4.1 million people in England are estimated to have had Covid in the week ending 26 March, up from 3.5 million in the previous week.