The Boris Johnson government on Monday included the loss of taste and smell to the core symptoms of coronavirus after a large number of people and ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctors reported the symptoms, as the number of cases in the UK approached 2.5 lakh.
Updating the symptoms list means such individuals would now be eligible for a test.
As of Sunday evening, 34,636 deaths and 243,303 cases were registered across the UK, retaining it on the top of the grim list in Europe. The number of deaths in a day was the lowest at 170, as some lockdown curbs were eased in England.
Health officials advised Britons that from Monday, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia, which is the medical term for the loss of or a change in normal sense of smell; it can also affect sense of taste as the two are closely linked.
The four chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said: “We have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on Covid-19 and, after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure”.
“The individual’s households should also self-isolate for 14 days as per the current guidelines and the individual should stay at home for seven days, or longer if they still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell”.
According to Tim Spector, head of the department of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, there are 50,000 to 70,000 people in the UK with coronavirus who are not being told to self-isolate, because so far only temperature and cough were considered the major symptoms.
Nearly 1.5 million people have logged on to an app developed at the college that tracks a wide range of symptoms and changes, he said.
Spector told BBC: “It (the app) tells us that we’ve got at least 100,000 cases at the moment of people who are infected. And this is from our data, although the NHS would underestimate that because they’re not counting all the symptoms”.
“This country is missing the ball in underestimated cases but also putting people at risk, and continuing the epidemic. So we really do need to tell Public Health England to get in line with the rest of the world, and make people more aware. There’s no point telling people to be alert if they don’t know the symptoms”.
Business secretary Alok Sharma announced at the daily briefing in Downing Street that the clinical trial for a vaccine at the University of Oxford is “progressing well”, with all Phase 1 participants receiving their dose on schedule earlier this week.
He said: “They are now being monitored closely by the clinical trial team. The speed at which Oxford University has designed and organised these complex trials is genuinely unprecedented”.
“Imperial College are also making good progress, and will be looking to move into clinical trials by mid-June, with larger scale trials planned to begin in October. So far the government has invested £47 million in the Oxford and Imperial vaccine programmes”.
According to Johnson, the vaccine is a “very long way off” and may “not come to fruition”, but the government announced a £93 million investment for a new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre to produce it on a large scale if any of the trials succeed.