Common ailments such as a sore throat, muscle pains and diarrhoea have now been confirmed as signs of coronavirus – days after the Government axed free lateral flow tests
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Downing Street has defended scrapping free lateral flow tests as nine new Covid symptoms were added to the list.
Common ailments such as a sore throat, muscle pains and diarrhoea have been confirmed as signs of infection by the UK Health Security Agency – more than two years after the pandemic began.
Symptoms of Covid were previously only a fever, a new and persistent cough, and a loss or change in taste or smell.
The move comes days after free universal testing was axed in England and raised questions about the cost facing Brits checking if they have Covid or an ordinary cold.
The NHS website says these are “very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu”.
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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said providing universal free testing was “simply unsustainable” at a cost of £2 billion per month.
Asked if people should have access to free test in light of the changes, the spokesman said: “I think we need to look at where we are in the course of this pandemic.
“We know there is relatively high prevalence of Covid at the moment but because of vaccines, because of therapeutics and other approaches, we are not seeing it have the knock-on impact when it comes to requiring the most intensive hospital treatment.
“At the same time, the provision of free tests was costing taxpayers £2 billion a month and that is simply unsustainable.”
NHS staff, care home workers and people working in high risk settings such as prisons and refuges are still eligible for free tests.
Meanwhile, No10 said ministers expect the public to use their “good judgment” on whether to go out if they have symptoms.
The spokesman said: “I think anyone, even pre-Covid, would recognise if they have symptoms of an infectious disease, something like flu, they should stay home and not infect their loved ones or colleagues, and it is that sort of good judgment that we expect to see going forward.”
Covid rates in England have hit record highs with an estimated one in 13 people infected in the week ending March 26, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The surge is being blamed partly on the contagious Omicron BA.2 sub-variant and wider levels of social contact.
But numbers of people being treated for severe disease remain low thanks to high levels of vaccination.
The full list of Covid symptoms are:
- A 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)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- An aching body
- A headache
- A sore throat
- A blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick