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Fri, 3 July 2020

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Will lifting the lockdown now contribute to a second wave of coronavirus? Member content
By Jeremy Hunt MP and Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent
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Loss of smell or taste officially added to coronavirus symptom list, Government confirms

Loss of smell or taste officially added to coronavirus symptom list, Government confirms

The Government has told anyone who loses their sense of smell to self-isolate (PA)

2 min read

Loss of smell or taste has been officially added to the list of coronavirus symptoms, a month after ministers said it would "absolutely not" be included.

Anyone experiencing a loss of smell or taste, also known as anosmia, is now being advised to self-isolate for seven days to prevent the spread of infection.

Until now, only fever and a new, persistent cough were recognised as symptoms that would require isolation.

Confirming the change, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers said: “We have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on Covid-19 and, after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure.”

It comes a month after Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said anosmia would “absolutely not” be considered as a sign of the disease.

He told reporters: “There is some anecdotal data in the published domain that there is a proportion of people who do indeed lose their sense of taste and smell.

"However, we have looked at the data there is, in relation to whether that on its own is a symptom that would be important to add to the case definition, and the answer to that from our experts is absolutely not."

The move attracted significant criticism from the medical community, with the omission branded "clinical negligence" by the leaders of three leading specialist bodies.

In a joint statement last week, leaders of the British Rhinological Society, ENT UK and Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research insisted anosmia was one of the most “prevalent symptoms” of the disease.

Researchers at King’s College London also suggested at the start of April that loss of smell was an indicator of coronavirus after gathering data from over 1.5 million people using via an app. 

Cabinet ministers Matt Hancock and Nadine Dorries both reported they had lost their sense of smell when diagnosed with the disease.

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