Daily Covid infections exceeded 200,000 for the first time since late April last week, a reminder that while the worst of the pandemic may have passed, it is not yet over.
Restrictions have been lifted, self-isolation is no longer mandatory – although is still recommended – and the Government has ended the provision of free Covid tests.
Here are the symptoms of Covid explained, when you are most infectious, and what to do if you have the virus.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the symptoms of Covid?
The NHS now lists the following as official Covid symptoms:
- High temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
- Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Aching body
- Sore throat
- Blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick
The NHS says the symptoms “are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu”.
How long are you contagious with Covid?
For previous variants such as Delta, the World Health Organisation said symptoms could begin to develop anywhere between two days and two weeks after infection.
However, the incubation period for Omicron and its offshoots is believed to be much shorter – between three and five days.
It is believed people are at their most infectious one to two days before the onset of symptoms, and during the two to three days afterwards.
This helps explain why Omicron has been able to spread so quickly, as people have passed the virus on before even realising they have it.
Harvard University says: “People are thought to be most contagious early in the course of their illness.
“With Omicron, most transmission appears to occur during the one to two days before onset of symptoms, and in the two to three days afterwards. People with no symptoms can also spread the coronavirus to others.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in December: “Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than the Delta variant.”
Data shows that the majority of people are no longer infectious seven days after beginning to experience symptoms or first testing positive, particularly when vaccinated, and the majority are no longer infectious after 10 days.
How long can you test positive for Covid?
Most people will stop testing positive within 10 days of starting to experience symptoms, or receiving their first positive test.
However, it is possible to continue testing positive for weeks or even months after having the virus.
The good news is that even if you are continuing to test positive after a long time, it is highly unlikely you are actually contagious.
The Gavi Vaccine Alliance explains: “The time taken to test negative after contracting Covid-19 depends on the severity of the case, and also on the test itself.
“PCR tests that hunt out parts of viral genetic material (RNA in the case of Covid-19) in our bodies and amplify it so we can detect it are extremely sensitive and can even pick up the presence of few viral fragments. This is because fragments of viral RNA can remain in our bodies long after the infection is over and the virus has been cleared from our system.”