The Delta variant, which now accounts for the vast majority of the Covid-19 cases in the UK is not presenting with classic symptoms but is more like a bad cold, a leading researcher has warned.
Data from the ZOE COVID study at King’s College London said the top symptoms are headache, followed by runny nose and sore throat.
Symptoms reported to the ZOE COVID app suggest that the Delta variant suggest fever and cough are less common than with previous variants and loss of smell is not even in the top ten, said study lead Professor Tim Spector in his weekly update.
He said their data showed most cases were in young people who had not yet been vaccinated and that the variant appeared to be far more transmissible with every person infected passing it on to six others.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that the Delta variant, first detected in India, now accounts for 91% of cases in the UK.
Professor Spector said cases were rising exponentially and people who have only had one vaccine dose should not be complacent.
‘The UK really does now have a problem and we’ll probably be seeing, in a week, 20,000 cases and by 21st June well in excess of that number,’ he said.
‘Most of these infections are occurring in unvaccinated people. We’re only seeing slight increases in the vaccinated group and most of those in the single vaccinated group,’ he said.
‘Covid is also acting differently now. Its more like a bad cold in this younger population and people don’t realise that and it hasn’t come across in any of the government information.
‘This means that people might think they’ve got some sort of seasonal cold and they still go out to parties and might spread around to six other people and we think this is fuelling a lot of the problem.’
He added that the top symptoms as reported to the app were now not the same as they once were.
‘The number one symptom is headache, followed by runny nose, sore throat and fever. Not the old classic symptoms. We don’t see loss of smell in the top ten any more, this variant seems to be working slightly differently.’
He advised people who were feeling unwell to stay at home for a few days, use lateral flow tests with a confirmation PCR test if they get a positive result.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Everyone in England, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms, can now access rapid testing twice a week for free, in line with clinical guidance.
‘Experts keep the symptoms of Covid-19 under constant review and anyone experiencing the key symptoms – a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – should get a PCR test as soon as possible and immediately self-isolate along with their household.’