Omicron’s leniency has changed Covid symptoms, analysis by government scientists shows.
Britons who contract the virus are now 80 percent more likely to have a sore throat than three months ago when Delta was the dominant strain.
But loss of taste and smell is now much less likely to affect Covid-positive people, affecting only a third of those it was before.
Other features of the virus, such as a runny nose, fever and cough, are still just as likely to be experienced by patients of the new variant.
The UK Health Security Agency’s analysis was based on reports of 174,755 Omicron and 87,930 Delta confirmed cases.
Scientists from King’s College London – who also study Covid symptoms – called on the government to immediately add sore throats to official Covid warning lists.
They said they also saw fewer people experience a loss of smell now than when Delta was the main variant.
Scientists from the UK Health Security Agency found that 54 percent of Omicron-infected people had a sore throat, compared to 34 percent of Delta-infected people. They also found that only 13 percent of Omicron cases had a loss of smell and taste, compared to 34 percent for Delta
For the analysis, participants were asked to indicate what symptoms they had experienced during a confirmed Covid infection.
UKHSA scientists then compared the responses of those with confirmed Omicron or Delta infection to examine whether the warning signs had changed.
Up to 90 percent of participants experienced at least one symptom during their infection.
Positive swabs were analyzed to confirm whether someone had Omicron or Delta.
They found that 54 percent of people infected with Omicron had a sore throat, but only 13 percent said they had a loss of taste and smell.
In comparison, for those with Delta, 34 percent had a sore throat or loss of taste and smell.
Professor Tim Spector, who leads the ZOE Covid symptom study, said key symptoms had not changed since Delta was dominant.
Omicron spur detected in England
Scientists from the UK Health Security Agency say they have discovered an offshoot of Omicron in England.
The subvariant, called BA.2, carries 28 mutations, including changes on the spike protein.
A total of 53 cases have been detected in the UK so far.
But it’s most common in Denmark across the North Sea, where about 1,500 cases have been recorded.
UKHSA sources said there was no suggestion it was more likely to cause serious illness or be more deadly than Omicron.
When Delta was dominant, it also developed several offshoots, including AY.4.2, which was slightly more contagious.
These are still a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat, he told MailOnline.
But the top epidemiologist added: ‘We have seen a decrease in the prevalence of loss of smell as a symptom.
“It was in the top 10 symptoms for Delta, but has fallen to 17th for Omicron, with only one in five people experiencing it.”
He added: ‘I am still waiting to see when the government will change its outdated symptoms list to better reflect the symptoms people are experiencing.
“For me, a sore throat has to come right away.”
The study, which is being conducted in conjunction with health technology company ZOE, has more than 850,000 contributors.
They report to the app every day whether they are not feeling well, what symptoms they have and whether they have tested positive for Covid.
The NHS has come under repeated fire for failing to update its list of Covid symptoms, which still only includes fever, new persistent cough and sore throat.
By comparison, in many other countries, including the US, their lists now extend to more than ten warning signs.
Ministers cannot yet say when the list can be updated.
But current rules say people should only get a PCR test if they have one of the main symptoms of Covid or if they’ve been asked by NHS Test and Trace.
However, this no longer applies to those who have symptoms but have tested positive with a lateral flow device.
With the worst of the Omicron wave seemingly over, England is now trying to ease restrictions with vaccine passports that come into effect before the end of this month.
Self-isolation times will also be reduced to five days on Monday for vaccinated people who test positive for the virus.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said the changes will make the UK the ‘freest’ country in Europe.
But SAGE is already warning of a summer wave of Covid cases and hospitalizations of up to 10,000 a day in the worst cases.
The modelers admit they can’t predict the summer surge with “any certainty,” but predict an exit wave from increased mixing and waning immunity between May and July.
They add, “The precise timing and magnitude of this exit wave is highly dependent on both population behavior and the magnitude of the current wave and cannot be predicted with certainty.”