Omicron: Half of colds will actually be Covid, warn scientists

Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

Researchers and scientists have released data that shows that if you have a runny nose, sore throat and a headache, there is a good chance it will be Covid. The Zoe Covid Study Team has been tracking the pandemic using feedback from the general public and has estimated that half of people with cold-like symptoms actually have Covid-19. It will also probably be the Omicron variant, as this has now become the dominant strain across most of the UK and Europe.

The study team have described an “explosion” of Covid cases over the last week, with about 144,000 people a day catching it and displaying symptoms. For most in this wave of infection, these symptoms are mild, although there are some new differences to be aware of. Some people are still showing positive results with no symptoms at all, but for others, it can still cause very serious illness.

If you have cold-like symptoms, take a Covid test, says lead scientist Prof Tim Spector when speaking to the BBC.

“The number of new symptomatic cases has exploded over the last week,” he said. “For most people, an Omicron positive case will feel much more like the common cold, starting with a sore throat, runny nose and a headache. You only need to ask a friend who has recently tested positive to find this out. We need to change public messaging urgently to save lives.”

The UK has broken records most days this week, with 106,122 new cases being reported on Wednesday 22 December, the first time it has exceeded 100,000 on a single day ever. The infections caused by the more transmissible Omicron strain are doubling every two to three days and health officials are concerned about the pressure this could cause to the NHS.

Preliminary studies suggest the Omicron coronavirus variant is milder, with fewer people getting severely ill than with other variants. But a massive wave of infections would still mean many people needing hospital care, as well as lots of doctors and nurses being off sick with Covid.

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Written by

Claire Gordon


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