More than HALF of people who test positive for Covid have no symptoms – but fatigue is still most common sign, official data shows

  • Office for National Statistics found 53 per cent suffered no symptoms
  • Fatigue, headache and cough were the most common warning signs, they said
  • NHS only lists a temperature, cough and loss of taste and smell as infection signs

More than half of people who test positive for Covid in the UK suffer no symptoms, official figures revealed today.

Office for National Statistics data showed 53 per cent of those diagnosed with the virus said they had no warning signs — including a fever or cough. 

The survey — which looked at 10,000 people across the UK between December and March — suggested asymptomatic transmission is more common than previously feared.   

Experts have previously said they believe symptomless people account for a third of all new infections.

Among those that did have symptoms, the ONS data showed fatigue was the most commonly reported symptom, followed by a headache and a cough.

The NHS only lists a temperature, new continuous cough and loss of taste and smell as tell-tale signs of the virus. 

Yet fewer than a fifth (18 per cent) of people reported a loss or taste of smell as their only symptom.

Health chiefs have been repeatedly criticised for not including the wide-range of side effects which have been linked to the disease.  

Sarah Crofts, an ONS statistician said: ‘Our analysis today highlights the range of symptoms people can experience with Covid.’

‘The classic symptoms of fatigue, headache and cough are still the most commonly reported by those infected with the virus, while only around one in five experience loss of taste or smell only.

‘Around half of those we tested did not report any symptoms even whilst having high levels of the virus present in their body. 

WHAT WERE THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS IN MARCH 2021? 

Fatigue weakness

Cough

Headache

Muscle ache myalgia

29.2 per cent

28.2 per cent

26.8 per cent

21.0 per cent

Fever

Sore throat

Loss of taste or smell

19.9 per cent

19.9 per cent

17.5 per cent

Gastrointestinal

Loss of taste

Loss of smell

Shortness of breath

15.1 per cent

14.4 per cent

13.8 per cent

11.7 per cent

Nausea vomiting

Abdominal pain

Diarrhoea

8.9 per cent

6.2 per cent

5.5 per cent

‘This underlines that people in the community may unknowingly have the virus and potentially transmit it to others.’

She added: ‘It is vital we continue to measure infection levels in the population and collect information on symptoms so we can identify any changes that may otherwise go undetected.’ 

Symptoms of people who tested positive for coronavirus with a high viral load were analysed. They were swabbed between December 1 last year and March 22.

The least common symptoms were abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and nausea or vomiting.

Data showed there was an increase in all symptoms of than loss of taste and smell from December to February.

Some 55 per cent of people who tested positive reported they had no symptoms in December.

The figure dropped slightly in January (46 per cent) and February (47 per cent) but increased again to 53 per cent in March. 

All figures are for people in private households and excludes cases in hospitals, care homes and other institutional settings.

Respondents self-reported symptoms and they were not professionally diagnosed. 

It comes as professor Tim Spector an epidemiologist at King’s College London, today warned people to be aware of all 20 Covid symptoms and to get tested and stay at home if they experience any of them.

He said: ‘This week the government announced plans to make home-based lateral flow tests accessible as a tactic to catch more cases. 

‘According to our own data, five in 1000 of these tests give a false positive result, so we are encouraging people to take a lateral flow test at least twice if positive and confirm it with a full NHS PCR test.

‘However, people also need to know all the 20 symptoms, including sore throat, headache and fatigue, not just the classic three. So if you feel unwell with any of the symptoms of Covid, stay at home and get a test.’

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