Prof Tim Spector, the lead scientist on the Zoe Covid symptom tracker app, suggested that not acknowledging the wider list of symptoms afflicting people with the virus, along with the decision to drop isolation advice and withdraw free testing, could have driven up transmission rates.
He said: “The addition of more symptoms is definitely a step in the right direction and it could help reduce infections as we go forward.
“However, whilst this is good news, I’d like to see the order of the symptoms changed, as the NHS list puts far too much emphasis on symptoms like fever, and anosmia, which we know are much less common since the omicron variant emerged.
“According to the Zoe Covid Study, the top five symptoms being reported by contributors with a positive Covid test are runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, headache and sneezing.”
A spokesman for the UK Health Security Agency said the main Covid symptoms remained a fever, cough and loss of taste and/or smell.
“Since the start of the pandemic we have acknowledged Covid has a much longer list of symptoms,” the spokesman said, adding that these had been included in guidance since 2020.
On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said some 4.9 million people in the UK are estimated to have had Covid in the week ending March 26, up from 4.3 million the previous week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ministers expected the public to use their “good judgment” on whether to go out if they have symptoms.