Does Omicron show on lateral flow and PCR tests? Can test detect new Covid variant - and what are symptoms

The Omicron Covid variant was first detected in early November 2021

Under new rules, close contacts of suspected Omicron Covid cases must now self isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, regardless of vaccination status.

But how do you know if you have the Omicron variant, what are the Omicron symptoms to look out for, and do lateral flow and PCR tests detect it?

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Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Omicron variant?

The Omicron Covid variant was first detected in early November 2021 and has now been found in numerous countries across the world, including the UK.

The variant has multiple mutations to its spike protein, which is found on the virus’s surface.

The spike protein plays a role in infecting cells and there are currently concerns that the mutations could make it harder for people’s immune systems to fight off the variant.

There is currently an extremely high level of uncertainty about the significance of the Omicron variant and scientists do not yet know what its impact will be.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Do lateral flow tests detect the Omicron variant?

Lateral flow tests - also called antigen tests - are used by individuals who process the sample themselves and receive a result in 20 minutes.

Experts are confident that lateral flow tests can detect Omicron infections, but research is underway to verify this, according to a post on the UK Parliament website.

However, a lateral flow test cannot tell someone which variant they are infected with.

Do PCR flow tests detect the Omicron variant?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that PCR tests can detect Omicron infections.

Polymerase chain reaction tests, known as PCR tests, involve taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.

PCR tests are then processed in laboratories with results in 24-48 hours.

If you have any of these three Covid symptoms, even if mild, use this service to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed

You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site.

If you’re getting a PCR test because you’ve had a positive day 2 lateral flow travel test, you can only get the test sent to your home.

When you get your PCR test back, it will tell you if you’re suspected to have Omicron.

At that point, the new requirement is that people in your household and any close contacts must also self-isolate for a period of 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18.