More than half of positive Covid cases in March experienced no symptoms, ONS figures show

Credit: PA

More than half of the people with Covid in the community in March experienced no symptoms, raising fears asymptomatic cases could be unknowingly transmitting the virus.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show 53% of people who tested positive for the virus - outside of hospitals and care settings - reported experiencing no symptoms.

The minority (47%) who did experience symptoms found fatigue, a headache, and a cough were the most common.

Fewer than one in five people request a Covid-19 test if they have symptoms, a study found. Credit: PA

The ONS infection survey report looks at what symptoms people with Covid between December last year and March have reported.

The latest government data shows 2,763 new confirmed cases of the virus across the UK over the past 24 hours.

It comes as figures suggest the decline in cases is "levelling off" after they dropped by around 60% from February to March.

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Uncommon symptoms reported by people included diarrhoea (6%) and abdominal pain (6%) - both the least commonly reported symptoms. 

Sarah Crofts, Senior Statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said the analysis "highlights the range of symptoms people can experience" with the virus.

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"The classic symptoms of fatigue, headache and cough are still the most commonly reported by those infected with the virus, while only around 1 in 5 experience loss of taste or smell only," Ms Crofts said.

"Around half of those we tested did not report any symptoms even whilst having high levels of the virus present in their body. This underlines that people in the community may unknowingly have the virus and potentially transmit it to others.

"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."

It comes as the ONS also reported the number of deaths registered in England and Wales was below the five-year average for the third consecutive week.

Some 10,045 deaths were registered in the week to March 26, 5.0% below the average for the corresponding period in 2015-19.

Pharmacists carry a cooler containing the Moderna vaccine at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen Credit: Jacob King/PA

Prior to the three most recent weeks, the last time deaths had been below average was in the week to September 4 last year.

A total of 719 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending March 26 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the ONS - the lowest number since the week ending October 16.

The figure is down 25% on the previous week’s total.

The total number of deaths in the UK where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate has now reached 150,837.

The highest number of deaths to occur on a single day was 1,471 on January 19.

During the first wave of the virus, the daily death toll peaked at 1,461 deaths on April 8 2020.