Coronavirus symptom tracker shows spike in new cases since loss of smell was added to the list of disease symptoms with 27,000 infections added to UK total in four days
- Covid Symptom Tracker reported a surge in cases to 279,188 four days later
- App has said number of cases in the UK has stopped dropping since May 11
- Designed by scientists at King’s College London and health company ZOE
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Coronavirus cases in the UK surged after the government added loss of smell and taste to the list of disease symptoms, a coronavirus symptom tracker has claimed.
Covid Symptom Tracker saw its estimated total number of cases jump by 27,441 in the four days following the announcement on May 18, to 279,188.
The app also predicts a steady rise in infections in Britain following a low of 242,897 on May 11.
Designed by scientists at King’s College London and health science company ZOE, the app creates daily estimates on the number of UK coronavirus cases based on people self-reporting their own symptoms.
Users enter whether they are feeling well and, if not, what symptoms they are suffering each day. The results are then analysed to provide a UK-wide estimate.
At least 9,900 new coronavirus infections occur in England alone every day, the app’s creators claim, with the highest rates in the North West and the Midlands.
Jumped: The app’s predicted number of coronavirus cases in the UK surged after the government added loss of taste and smell, or anosmia, to its list of symptoms
Falling: The UK’s number of infections has collapsed from 2.1 million to almost 200,000 since the lockdown was brought in, the app has claimed
Stalled: However, the drop in the predicted number of infections has now levelled off
Research carried out by the app, designed by scientists at King’s College London and health science company ZOE, said there are 9,900 new infections every day
The daily number of cases reported by the app has risen gradually since May 11, the day after Boris Johnson announced a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.
However, Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London and app analyser, calls the figures ‘not hugely significant on their own’.
‘At these very low levels, fluctuations are to be expected,’ he said.
‘It could also be that this slight rise is linked to the increase in awareness of loss of smell which happened at the beginning of the week following the government’s announcement.’
The Covid app has consistently reported figures above the UK government’s official tally of confirmed cases, which currently sits at 254,195 Britons.
As many as 36,393 people have died from the virus, a rise of 351 from yesterday.
The app records higher numbers than the official government figures as it includes people who are likely to have contracted the virus but not received an official test.
According to the King’s College scientists behind the app, there has been a nine-fold fall in the total number of cases since early April, down from 2.1million to 272,972 as of May 22.
But the scientists warn these figures may be still be underestimation because it is unable to detect asymptomatic cases, and its sample may not be representative of the UK population.
More than 2.6 million people have signed up to the Covid-19 symptom tracker to report whether they are unwell, and what symptoms they are suffering.
The app asks users to enter whether they’ve had a coronavirus test and whether they are unwell on a daily basis.
The data is then used to map the spread of coronavirus in the UK and how the outbreak has changed during lockdown.
The more people submitting information, the more accurate the data is.
The app has been endorsed by NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and a number of medical colleges.
You can learn how to download the app here.
Government figures did not show a surge in coronavirus cases after adding the new symptom, although a lack of testing means authorities may not know the current total in the country.
The team behind the app has also suggested UK cases are jumping by 9,900 every day, after analysing data from 980,000 participants including 18,000 who received a swab test between May 2 and May 15.
The North West has the highest projected rate of infections at up to 412 new sufferers per million people a day, they said, followed by the Midlands with up to 310 new cases per million.
The South West was predicted to be the area with the lowest spread at up to 172 cases per million, followed by London, at up to 179 per million, and the South East, at up to 176 per million.
CEO of ZOE Global Jonathan Wolf said: ‘These results are only possible because of the millions of people who are generously recording their health daily on the Covid Symptom Study app.
‘By combining physical swab testing with daily digital health reporting we are now able to understand the daily new cases of infection. This was previously a mystery.
‘We will be updating this regularly, which will provide vital information to the NHS and government as we all look to ease our way out of lockdown.’
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said officials hoped adding anosmia to the list would help control the spread
What is anosmia?
Anosmia is the medical name for a condition in which someone suffers a complete or partial loss of their sense of smell and/or taste.
The most common single cause of the condition – temporary or permanent – is illnesses which affect the nose or sinuses, such as polyps which grow in the airways, fractured bones or cartilage, hay fever or tumours.
It is different to hyposmia, which is a decreased sensitivity to some or all smells.
Around 3.5million people in the UK are affected by the condition, along with nearly 10million in the US. It is surprisingly common and affects between three and five per cent of people.
Head injuries and nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s may also contribute to the condition by damaging nerves in the nose which are responsible for detecting smells.
The UK government decided to add loss of taste and smell – also called ansomia – to its list of coronavirus symptoms on May 18, after dragging its feet for weeks over the designation.
The app had been calling for this change, noting that it had up to 70,000 users reporting this symptom but not self-isolating due to the government’s directions.
The deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said officials hope adding the symptom to the list will help medics detect three per cent more patients.
‘With a cough or fever, sensitivity was around 91 per cent,’ he said in a telephone briefing.
‘By adding anosmia, in terms of case pick-up, we think that might go to 94 per cent.
‘The reason for making the change now is that there has been a signal around the importance of anosmia as a symptom of COVID-19 for a while now.
‘It has been important to continue to look at that and be sure that we consider it and introduce it at the right time… this has been quite a difficult piece of science.’
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