Loss of taste and smell have been added to the official list of symptoms of COVID-19.
Medically known as anosmia, this will now be included in the government’s definition of what patients may experience when suffering from coronavirus.
The advice now says people should isolate if they have a new continuous cough, or fever, or anosmia. The symptoms of loss of smell and taste have been reported in many patients for several weeks.
Some countries, including the US, have already added the symptom to help clinicians spot potential patients.
Since March, government advisers on new viruses at the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), have been monitoring anosmia and other potential symptoms.
Professor Van-Tam, who has been advising the government on COVID-19, said adding the symptoms means 2% more cases could be picked up.
Research suggests anywhere between 13% to more than half of COVID-19 patients experience anosmia.
But Professor Van-Tam refused to be drawn on the numbers, describing the data as “quite variable”.
There have been reports that loss of smell and taste is more frequent in women, but Professor Van-Tam said: “We aren’t in a position where we can be clear on that.”
The list of symptoms for coronavirus patients is long, with some patients experiencing fatigue, abdominal pain, or diarrhoea.