Covid symptoms: warning over 2 most reported signs of infection as UK cases soar by 32%

Covid infections have jumped by more than 30% in a week

Covid infections in the UK have jumped by more than half a million in a week, as the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants continue to spread.

A total of 2.3 million people across the country are estimated to have had the virus last week, up 32% from a week earlier, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

It marks the highest estimate for total infections since late April, with the virus being most prevalent in Scotland.

However, the total is still some way below the record high of 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.

Hospital numbers have also continued to rise, with early signs of a rise in intensive care admissions among older age groups.

A headache and runny nose are among the most commonly reported Covid symptoms (Composite: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld)

What symptoms should I look for?

Covid symptoms have become a lot more varied since the virus broke out more than two years ago, making infection harder to spot.

The ZOE Covid Study app, launched in March 2020, has helped to keep track of common symptoms as users regularly report on their health.

Researchers assess data reported on the app, in collaboration with King’s College London, to track infections, identify where cases are rising, and to identify the key warning signs to look for.

Two key symptoms affecting the head are among the most frequently reported by people infected with Covid, with 69% of users reporting suffering with a runny nose, while 64% said they had a headache.

A headache is often one of the earliest signs of infection and researchers have found that people infected with the virus tend to have moderate to severely painful headaches, or feel pulsing or stabbing pains.

The top five Covid warning signs to look for, according to the app, are:

  • Runny nose
  • A sore throat
  • Headache
  • Persistent cough
  • Fatigue (mild and severe)

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist of the ZOE Covid Study app, said the more “old fashioned” Covid symptoms have dropped much further down the rankings by comparison. These include a fever, and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test ended across the UK earlier this year, with the governments instead asking people to take “personal responsibility”.

In England, it is recommended that you follow NHS guidance if you feel unwell. The NHS says you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you:

  • have any symptoms of Covid and have a high temperature, or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities
  • have tested positive for Covid

Those who test positive are urged to avoid meeting people at higher risk from Covid for 10 days.

If you live in Scotland, the Scottish Government recommends following the advice on NHS Inform.

If you test positive, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day you took your test, or from the day your symptoms started (whichever was earlier).

If you have not tested positive, you should try to stay home until you feel better.

In Wales, you should self-isolate and order a test if you display Covid symptoms and continue to self-isolate until you get your result.

If the test is negative you can leave isolation immediately, but if it is positive you should isolate for five full days and then take another test, plus another the following day.

If both are negative you can leave isolation. If either one is positive, you should continue isolating until you get two negative results in a row, or until day 10, whichever is sooner.

In Northern Ireland, people are advised to isolate immediately if they have Covid symptoms or have tested positive.

If you display Covid symptoms you should self-isolate, order a test and remain in isolation until you get your result.

If the test is negative you can leave isolation immediately. If you test positive you should isolate for five full days, starting from the day after you took the test, and then take another.

If that test is negative, take another test the following day and if that is also negative you can leave isolation.

If either test is positive, continue isolating until you get two negative tests in a row, or until day 10, whichever is sooner.