How long does it take for coronavirus symptoms to show? Dr Hilary explains

Imogen Braddick

With more than 9,500 cases of coronavirus in the UK, Britons have been instructed to stay at home unless they need to buy food or medicine, help vulnerable people or go to work if "absolutely necessary".

It can be difficult to know what advice to follow, but Dr Hilary Jones, health editor for ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine, has answered important questions about symptoms, self-isolation and how long it takes for signs of the virus to show.

Here, we take a closer look at the symptoms and when the signs begin to present themselves.

Dr Hilary explained when coronavirus symptoms begin to present themselves (ITV)

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are having a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath.

People with the virus will typically show flu-like symptoms, including a fever and a cough, that can progress to severe pneumonia. This can then cause breathing difficulties.

Some people with mild symptoms of the virus have reported a loss of smell and taste, but Dr Hilary said this is not a reason to self-isolate as it could be down to a cold or an allergy.

"Hayfever is coming in now, people are getting a bunged up nose, and that isn't often a symptom of coronavirus, so if you haven't the two cardinal symptoms - a cough, which is new, and a fever - you carry on as normal," he said.

How long does it take for the signs to show?

Dr Hilary said the incubation period is between five to six days in most cases, so symptoms would show from then after exposure to the virus.

Many people can have the virus without knowing and only show mild symptoms, Dr Hilary said, and it is possible for people to have had it without knowing.

Dr Hilary explained how the new coronavirus antibody test works on ITV's Good Morning Britain, which identifies whether you have had the virus and are now immune or whether you are still at risk.

Describing the test as a "game-changer", Dr Hilary said: "It determines whether you have had the virus and are now immune.

"It works by putting a drop of blood in and a couple of drops of a buffer solution and then the liquid is drawn up through the's basically measuring chemicals which are within the virus itself.

"And it tells you whether you have been exposed or you haven't, so this will be really useful for people who need to know whether they can go back to work safely."

The test can also be used to see how long immunity against the virus lasts, which will be key, according to Dr Hilary.

How to self-isolate if you are showing symptoms

If you live alone, the seven-day self-isolation period begins on the day your symptoms start, Dr Hilary said.

Anyone who is self-isolating after showing symptoms such as a continuous cough or fever should use their own bedding, pillows, towels and toiletries if they live with other people.

People should also use their own cutlery and crockery and they should visit the bathroom last and clean hard surfaces with a household bleach product.

If after seven days, your symptoms have gone and you are well, you can carry on as normal, even if you still have a cough. But if you still feel unwell, you have to stay at home until you feel better.​

A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks across Westminster Bridge on Wednesday (AFP via Getty Images)

When to call 111

If someone is showing symptoms such as a fever or a new continuous cough, do not go to your local GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You are advised to stay at home for seven days and only call 111 if you feel you cannot cope with the symptoms, you do not get better after seven days, or your symptoms worsen.

Read more

London hospitals facing 'tsunami' of patients amid Covid-19 outbreak

Clap for Carers: Why people are being asked to applaud NHS staff

Dyson designs new Covid-19 ventilator after Government orders 10,000

Half a million sign up to be NHS volunteers in fight against Covid-19