What are the changes to Covid testing and symptom tracking?

I can understand anyone in the UK who feels a little lost by the current Covid situation.

On the one hand newspaper headlines shout about record numbers of infections. Many large businesses unable to provide full services due to Covid related illness, and many of us will know people who have contracted the virus in the past few weeks.

While on the other hand, we now have reduced restrictions nationwide in England. Easter Holidays are back on if you want to travel. Mandatory self-isolation and shop closures feel a long time ago and free lateral flow tests for the general public stopped earlier this month.

The logic from the scientific community is that now is the time to treat Covid like other respiratory illnesses, such as flu. Because the potentially lethal effects of the virus have been reduced by vaccination.

Quite how much of a pressure this recent wave will put on our NHS or hospitals is unclear, nor how long it will last.

The Government is now putting the emphasis on you to do the right thing if you contract Covid.

You are still able to get tests if you pay for them. But current advice says if you feel unwell, or have symptoms likely to be Covid, then you should not go to work. Nor would it be wise to socialise with vulnerable people. Because remember the effects of the virus for some people can still be extremely severe.

When it comes to diagnosing yourself before you take a test, the official list of Covid symptoms has recently been expanded to include another nine signs of a Coronavirus infection.

The UK Health Security Agency's updated guidance now lists symptoms including a sore throat, muscle pains and diarrhoea. However, the NHS cautions that many of the new symptoms "are very similar" to those for colds and flu, which will cause confusion for many.

The original signs of a Covid infection that were recognised in the UK were:

  • Fever
  • New continuous cough
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

It was known from the early days of the pandemic that this trio was just the tip of the iceberg. The World Health Organization and other countries, including the US, have used a longer list of symptoms for some time.

However, there has been debate in the UK about precisely which symptoms should be recognised and suggest somebody takes a Covid test to confirm a positive case.

A headache is a known symptom of Covid, but it might not be a good idea to test everybody with one, as there are so many other causes!

So now the list of symptoms includes a further nine:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Aching body
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick

The current public health advice is people should try to stay at home (and away from others) if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, and have a high temperature - or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities.

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