December 3, 2022

Britain’s health service has expanded its list of possible symptoms of coronavirus infection, after the Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 propelled new case reports upward again in much of Europe.

The updated symptom list, which now includes feelings of tiredness or exhaustion as well as nausea, brings the National Health Service’s description of the disease largely in line with those of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

Early in the pandemic, some public health experts criticized the British health authorities for what they said was an overly narrow symptom list. Initially, it included just two — fever and a new, continuous cough — with loss of taste and smell added later.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has driven renewed public interest in the symptoms of Covid-19, and whether they differ from those of previous virus variants like Delta.

BA.2 appears to be more transmissible than the earlier version of Omicron, BA.1, but it does not appear to cause different symptoms, according to Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an epidemiologist and pediatric infectious diseases specialist at N.Y.U. Langone Health.

The National Health Service’s full list of possible Covid symptoms now includes:

  • A high temperature or shivering (chills);

  • A new, continuous cough;

  • Loss or change to the sense of smell or taste;

  • Shortness of breath;

  • Feelings of tiredness or exhaustion;

  • Body aches and headache;

  • Sore throat;

  • Blocked or runny nose;

  • Loss of appetite;

  • Diarrhea;

  • Feeling sick or being sick to one’s stomach.

“The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu,” the N.H.S. website says.

The British government scrapped all its legally enforceable coronavirus restrictions in February. Since then, the rate of positive tests has surged, and around one out of every 13 people in England tested positive in the week ending March 26, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has crept up, but the number of people in intensive care remains well below the numbers seen at the height of the Delta wave in January 2021.

Britain as a whole has recently been averaging about 65,000 new coronavirus cases a day, 27 percent fewer than two weeks earlier, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

In other developments around the world:

  • Greece will start offering additional booster shots of coronavirus vaccines to older adults this week, the head of its vaccination committee said on Tuesday. The shots will become available to people over 80 on Thursday, with eligibility expanding to anyone over 70 a week later and anyone over 60 a week after that. In January, Greece suspended enforcement of a 100-euro monthly fine for people over 60 who remained unvaccinated.

  • The provinces of Quebec and Prince Edward Island in Canada announced extensions of their indoor mask mandates on Tuesday, bucking the widespread easing trend and making the provinces among the last places in North America to continue to require masks in all indoor public spaces, Reuters reported. Health officials in Quebec said they expect a rise in coronavirus cases in the province this month.