What are the Omicron symptoms to look out for?

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination

Symptoms of the Omicron variant are like a common cold. - Credit: PA

Amid rising Covid cases, experts have revealed the symptoms to look out for in the Omicron variant.

According to new analysis, Omicron is now the dominant Covid-19 variant in London and rising in other parts of the country.

With Omicron's rising prominence in mind, what are the symptoms of the latest strain to be aware of?

What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?

Professor Tim Spector, who was one of the founders of the Covid Zoe app, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the majority of symptoms of the Omicron variant are like a common cold, including headaches, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue and sneezing.

Mr Spector said: “In London, where Covid is increasing rapidly, it's far more likely to be Covid than it is to be a cold.

“We’re seeing doubling in the numbers equivalent to what’s being seen elsewhere, every two-and-a-half days, and that really means numbers are going up.

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“If we look at our regional charts we see London accelerating more than we’ve seen it since the very first wave and this now means that Omicron is the predominant variant already.

“We’ll be at 100pc very soon, so that’s happened in just a matter of days – that’s why so many people are going down with infections.”

How is Omicron different from previous variants?

Professor Adam Finn told BBC Breakfast that he was very concerned about the current number of daily infections, adding that cases are more likely to spread.

He said: “It's a big step change upwards in terms of transmissibility.

"We are going to see the numbers of people becoming ill and needing hospital care beginning to rise steadily now over the next week and maybe over Christmas as well."

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, described the Omicron coronavirus variant as the most significant threat since the start of the pandemic.

She told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “I’m sure for example, the numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants.

“The real potential risk here – and I would underline that because we are still learning a lot about the variant – is in relation to its severity, clinical severity, and therefore whether those cases turn into severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths."

But Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, also said it is "too early to say how severe" the strain is after early suggestions from South Africa that it could be relatively mild.

How will the booster jab help?

From December 15, all eligible adults over 18 in England will be offered a booster jab. This applies to every person that has had their second vaccine at least three months before.

On Sunday, December 12, prime minister Boris Johnson moved his initial target for every adult to receive a booster jab by a month from the end of January to the end of December due to rising cases.

Mr Johnson said: "No one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming."

According to Dr Harries, the real risk of Omicron is the unusual mutations of the virus. 

She added: “It runs the risk of evading our natural and/or vaccine immunity.

“We have early studies looking at immune serum from patients who’ve been ill and been vaccinated, to see that two doses of vaccine against symptomatic infection – so we don’t know yet about severe disease but about symptomatic infection – is much reduced.

“We do know that the booster dose will push that right back up but it still comes back to a level below that that we’ve had with the booster effect for Delta, our previous wave.”

What is the NHS guidance?

According to the NHS website, the main symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, even if they're mild:

  1. Get a PCR test (test that is sent to a lab) to check if you have COVID-19 as soon as possible.
  2. Stay at home and do not have visitors (self-isolate) until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test. Check if people you live with need to self-isolate.

You should also self-isolate straight away if: