Covid: Three quarters of people with cold symptoms are likely to have coronavirus, study finds

Symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, and runny nose could be Covid.

Around 75% of people who develop cold-like symptoms are likely to have Covid, scientists have warned.

The figure is up from 50% last week, but the study suggested exponential coronavirus case growth seems to have stopped.

According to new analysis, the ZOE Covid Study estimates that three quarters of people experiencing new cold-like symptoms are likely to have symptomatic Covid-19.

The study reported that the data was showing a fall in the number of non-Covid “colds” and a rise in symptomatic coronavirus infections.

New figures show the number of people in hospital with Covid in England have risen above 11,000 for the first time since February, as Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

Breaking down three key pieces of data

  • Incident figures: The study found there are currently 192,290 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the UK on average. This is up 33% from the 144,284 reported last week.

  • Rising cases: The study also found that while the rise in cases appeared to be slowing in the 0 to 55 age groups it was “rising sharply” in the 55 to 75-year-old groups. It said that this was “worrying” because this older age group was more at risk of needing hospital treatment.

  • Exponential growth: Dr Claire Steves, scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app, said that while the number of daily new symptomatic Covid cases was more than double what it was this time last year - exponential growth appeared to have stopped.

"The number of daily new symptomatic Covid cases are more than double what they were this time last year and we are just a day or two away from hitting over 200,000," she said.

"However, the exponential growth in cases appears to have stopped, and the rise is more steady."

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Dr Steves stressed that symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, and runny nose needed to be added to the government list of Covid symptoms as soon as possible.

“Hospitalisation rates are thankfully much lower than this time last year, but they are still high, especially in London. It’s good news to see that fewer people are newly sick than a few weeks ago.

“However, the fact that 75% of new cold-like symptoms are Covid, and the classic symptoms are much less common, means the government advice needs to be urgently updated.

“We want to see symptoms like sore throat, headache and runny nose added to the list as soon as possible.”

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Who's catching Covid?

The ZOE Covid Study also found that there were 78,748 new daily symptomatic cases in the vaccinated population (those with at least two doses) across the UK.

That's an increase of 40% from 56,346 last week.

It estimates that on average one in 32 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid, rising to one in 30 in England.

In Wales it is one in 41, in Scotland it is one in 51, and in London one in 16 have symptomatic Covid, it added.

The ZOE study incidence figures are based on reports from around 840,000 weekly contributors.

People arrive to receive a ‘Jingle Jab’ Covid vaccination booster injection at Redbridge Town Hall in Ilford Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

The new figures, published on Thursday, come after a new record was set for the daily number of coronavirus cases on Wednesday, as all four UK nations reported their figures for the first time since Christmas Eve.

The UK government said that a further 183,037 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases had been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday. The total includes reported figures for Northern Ireland covering a five-day period.

But the 138,287 figure for England was also the highest recorded.