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So you think you’ve caught Covid?
You’re far from alone – around one in 25 people in England reported having the virus last week according to the latest stats from ONS, and the rate is even higher in Wales (one in 20), Northern Ireland (one in 19) and Scotland (one in 17).
But, this spike is different from previous waves.
There are no strict social distancing rules advising you how to behave when you think you might have the virus, even though there’s no doubt that the latest sub-variant – Omicron BA.5 – is sweeping across the country.
Then there’s the extra price tag attached to lateral flow tests (LFTs) which stopped being free for the majority of Brits after April.
But, Covid is still a health risk.
Here’s what you can do if you suspect you might have tested positive.
Symptoms that may mean you have Covid
With new variants developing and taking over, it can be difficult to keep up with which symptoms mean you likely have coronavirus right now.
With Omicron BA.5 dominating the UK right now, here are the symptoms you should keep an eye for:
Despite fresh concerns around the new sub-variants, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) claims there is “currently no evidence” they cause more serious illness than previous strains, or come with new symptoms.
A loss of taste or smell were more common with previous strains of the virus, such as Alpha, as was breathlessness.
If you’re short of breath now, when Alpha is no longer dominant, it’s a likely sign your infection is quite severe.
Test yourself, if you can
Tests will not be accessible to everyone now that a pack of seven costs upwards of £10 from most retailers, but if possible, try to test yourself.
Avoid those who are high risk for around 10 days after your first positive test, too.
Some people can still get a test for free:
Hospital patients, where a PCR test is required for their care
Anyone eligible for community Covid drug treatments (they are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they get infected – this group will be contacted directly)
Care home residents
Anyone working in high-risk settings, such as care homes or prisons. They will tests regularly free, with or without symptoms.
If you’re not on this list, you could buy a test from most pharmacies. However, if you’re unable to test yourself, it’s best to try to isolate as much as you can until you start to feel better.
Should you be popping out?
Not if you can help it. Try to secure home deliveries for groceries and other goods, or ask a friend to go to the shops on your behalf.
Large social gatherings should be dodged too, as well as enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces.
Still exercise outdoors and away from others. As always, remember to wash your hands, and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
What about masks?
If you do absolutely have to go to the shops, make sure to wear a well-fitting face covering or mask and avoid crowded or enclosed spaces including public transport.
If you’re going into a busy shop or public transport without a mask on right now, you’re endangering the lives of clinically vulnerable people. Your neighbour with asthma. The stranger with a kidney transplant. This Disability Pride month, show us you think our lives count.
— Frances Ryan (@DrFrancesRyan) July 5, 2022
For life at home
Make sure to ventilate indoors spaces where you can – Covid is still airborne and can linger in a room even after the infected person has left.
If you live with someone else, try to avoid cooking at the same time and wipe down any surfaces you use. Similarly, try to wipe down all the surfaces you’ve touched in the bathroom after using it.
What else you can do to protect yourself
If you haven’t already, make sure you are up to date with all your Covid vaccines – that means having your first and second jabs, along with your booster.
Another wave is expected to hit the UK in the autumn, as we spend more time outside where Covid can circulate, so the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation) has recommended that the government rolls out another booster programme.
At the moment, it is suggesting another booster for residents and staff at care homes, frontline health and social care workers, anyone aged 65 and over, and at-risk adults aged between 16 and 64. This is a total of around 25 million people, although the exact date for this rollout is yet to be announced.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.