A top scientist has asked the NHS to expand its list of Covid-19 symptoms after it was found that nearly 200,000 tests for the virus are no longer being used every day.
Only those who suffer from the three main symptoms – a new, persistent cough, high temperature, and loss of taste and smell – are eligible for a test, according to the Ministry of Health.
However, Professor Tim Spector, whose team was the driving force behind officially recognizing the third symptom as a warning sign, said the added capacity means the list can now be expanded to include those in the early stages of the infection.
He said the three main symptoms affect about 85 percent of cases among 18- to 65-year-olds – who are at lower risk for the virus – but "they don't always take people in early". You can also have difficulty diagnosing those most at risk.
To detect infections at an early stage, an unusual rash should also include skipping meals and being tired. "These seem to be the most specific," he said.
Government figures show it was able to run an average of 190,000 more tests per day than it did during the seven-day period ended November 17. And the week before, more than 200,000 were not used.
Professor Spector and other experts said it was "positive" that anyone who needed a Covid-19 test could get one now. They added that it was difficult to match capacity with demand because the number of people who needed a test could change "very quickly".
The government was under pressure to wipe all NHS staff weekly – but this would require 1.4 million smear capacity.
Nursing home workers, people living or working in Liverpool, and people going to hospital can get a Covid-19 test even if they don't have symptoms. Home care workers can also get weekly tests if they stop having symptoms by Monday.
In the UK, almost 200,000 Covid-19 tests are not used every day, according to the Department of Health
TIRED AND HEADACHE POSSIBLE SYMPTOMS IN THE FIRST FIVE DAYS OF COVID-19, STUDY APP REVEALS
Fatigue and headaches are the most common Covid-19 symptoms within the first five days after infection, scientists have found.
Of 4,182 people who tested positive for Covid-19 and recorded their symptoms in the Covid Symptom Study app, 90 percent suffered from fatigue and headaches in the first five days of the illness.
A sore throat was the third most common symptom at 87 percent.
Of the officially recognized symptoms, fever was the fourth most common, at 85 percent within five days.
Persistent cough was the fifth most common at 83 percent and loss of smell was the ninth most common at 74 percent.
However, experts warned that people should experience more than one symptom before taking a Covid-19 test to avoid overloading the system.
They also warned that there are many more viruses out there and many of the symptoms are non-specific, meaning that many people who suffer from them may not actually have Covid-19.
Professor Spector from King & # 39; s College London and his team have been working with their Covid Symptom Study app to identify the symptoms triggered by Covid-19 infection.
Unwell users are asked to enter their symptoms and then the results of a Covid-19 test. The symptoms of those who test positive are then logged to see if early warning signs of the virus can be identified.
As a result, they discovered that loss of taste and smell were a common symptom of the virus and later made efforts to include it on the official list of symptoms.
More than 4 million people use the app, including many in the UK. Your data will be used to determine symptoms of Covid-19.
When they compiled the symptoms of 4,182 people who tested positive for coronavirus, they found that fatigue and headache were the most common signs within five days of infection – 90 percent of those who got the disease had both .
Speaking of the Covid-19 “black holes” symptom list for picking up infections, Professor Spector said, “This is why you get headaches, sore throats and the fatigue in the first few days that you skip your meals before any of these other symptoms. & # 39;
For those over 65 who are at higher risk for the virus, and those under 18, he warned that the list of symptoms should be "more flexible" as these cases do not have the "classic symptoms".
"For example, in those over 65, most people don't have a cough or breathlessness, so this is a pretty useless test in this group," he said. "They tend to have confusion and other problems."
His team has offered the Ministry of Health an algorithm that can help identify those with the virus based on their symptoms. These could be used by general practitioners to detect Covid-19 infections at an early stage.
But the officials still have to accept the offer.
He added, "Our results suggest that there are certain groups in which these symptoms are not particularly apt."
“Most other countries have a much more relaxed system. For example, in the US, you have 11 symptoms. I'm not advocating this, but I think a smarter list of symptoms, which varies by age, should be used. & # 39;
Professor Tim Spector of King & # 39; s College London said the additional capacity should be used to expand the list of symptoms
He said that overcapacity in the system could also be viewed as "positive" given the previous problems with testing – some should travel hundreds of miles to be wiped off.
The disaster came when thousands of concerned parents and teachers started applying for tests in September when schools and offices fully reopened.
Baroness Dido Harding, in charge of UK testing capacity, was forced to fend off criticism and insisted that it was "not my job" to determine if demand could outperform supply.
The government increased testing capacity to 500,000 swabs per day in early November, but many of those swabs are still not in use.
Two more machines, which are expected to increase capacity by 600,000 swabs a day, are due to arrive in the UK in early January.
It comes after the government quickly expanded capacity to 500,000 tests per day
Boris Johnson previously encouraged those suffering from the top three coronavirus symptoms to have a test
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS?
Below are the most common symptoms of the coronavirus, reported by 4,182 people who tested positive for the disease.
They entered their symptoms into the Covid Symptom Study app.
% of people who have ever had symptoms
Loss of smell
shortness of breath
Dr. Yoon Loke, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that the replacement tests should be offered to contacts of Covid-19 cases in order to free those who are not sick from self-isolation.
"If they are deleted, they can go back to normal life immediately," he said.
"These re-tests and the shortening of the quarantine could help improve the dismal statistics, which suggest that perhaps only 10 percent of people are actually completely clinging to self-isolating."
He also criticized the government's plans to massively expand testing capacity without focusing on turnaround times, saying that "while large capacity is great, you can't test yourself out of a pandemic".
"As a doctor, I would be satisfied with half the capacity (e.g. 250 km) but twice the speed, ideally within 12 hours."
“Those who are negative can quickly get on with life. Those who are positive can be treated properly in the right place. & # 39;
He added, “The test is only useful if it can separate the infected from the uninfected so that the spread is reduced. After a positive test, a lot more effort must be made to implement the correct measures – it will likely take a lot more carrot than so much whip. & # 39;
Dr. Simon Clarke, associate professor of cell biology at the University of Reading, told MailOnline that he was concerned that adding to the list could render the test system inoperable, even though there is still much capacity left.
"As the winter progresses, people with other respiratory infections and possibly Covid-19 can be expected to increase significantly," he said.
"Many people with other infections have the same symptoms as Covid-19, so they need to be tested, and I suspect that a large part of this excess capacity is being used."
"It may seem like an unjustified expense now, but it could easily be put into action very quickly over the winter."
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Affairs said, “NHS Test and Trace has the capacity to respond to rising demand and the capacity to expand our testing offering.
"The demand for tests will vary and this should give people confidence that they can get one if they have symptoms and need a test."
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