Loss of smell has been added to the UK’s official list of coronavirus symptoms by the government, with anyone experiencing this symptom now required to self-isolate.
The government will advise today that anyone who experiences the symptom, which has the technical name of anosmia, will need to stay home for seven days, while people in their household will have to stay home for 14 days.
Anosmia does not need to be experienced in conjunction with the other two official symptoms – a fever and a new continuous cough – for people to self-isolate.
Adding anosmia, which is usually accompanied by a loss of taste, to the symptoms list will help identify more cases of Covid-19, according to deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam.
Van-Tam said the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) had been monitoring whether the symptom should be added to the list since 27 March
He said that previously there was not enough scientific evidence for it to be added alone to the official symptoms list.
It is thought that at least 50 per cent of people in the UK who test positive with coronavirus have experienced loss of smell as a symptom.
He said: “The question has always been…at what point can we be sure that adding anosmia, or anything else frankly, improve and help us to pick up cases?
“That work has now been completed and that is the point we’re at now.
“It’s about the role it plays in identifying cases.”
Some experts have been arguing for the past two months that anosmia should be added to the official list of symptoms in the UK.
President of the British Rhinological Society – and ear, nose and throat consultant – professor Claire Hopkins has lobbied Nervtag to include the symptom since mid-March.
She told the BBC: “We’ve been able to show that in groups of patients that have lost their sense of smell without any other symptoms, there’s a greater than 95 per cent chance it is due to Covid-19 at the moment.”