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16th Dec 2021

Why you might not actually need to miss Christmas if you test positive for Covid today

Charlie Herbert

Why you might not actually need to miss Christmas if you test positive for Covid today

Testing positive now may not be the death knell for your Christmas Day plans.

With less than 10 days to go until the big day, Brits across the country are facing the prospect of having to isolate for Christmas Day if they now test positive for Covid.

There are fears that up to one million Brits could be facing a Christmas in self-isolation as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread across the country.

These fears were compounded by the UK recording its highest ever number of new Covid cases in a single day on Wednesday, with 78,610 new cases reported. This was more than 10,000 more than the previous record set on January 8.

But testing positive now may not be the death knell for your Christmas Day plans. This is all dependant on whether or not you have symptoms and when they started.

If you test positive for Covid-19, you must self-isolate for 10 days. But if you have symptoms – a high temperature, a cough, a loss or change in smell or taste – then your isolation period starts from the day these symptoms first developed.

Obviously you should immediately begin self-isolation from the moment you develop one of these symptoms, but the 10 days of self-isolation begin from when the symptoms develop and not, for example, from when you received a positive PCR test.

The NHS website reads: “If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you do not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.”

However, if you don’t have symptoms this doesn’t apply to you. You must self-isolate from the day you first tested positive for Covid.

If you develop symptoms during your self-isolation, this also resets the isolation clock back to zero and you must isolate for a further 10 days from when those symptoms develop.

And if at the end of your 10 days you still have “a high temperature, or are feeling unwell”, you must continue to self-isolate and seek medical advice.

On the same day, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that more records will be broken in the coming days as Omicron continues to sweep across the country.

Because of the threat Omicron poses, Professor Whitty also urged people to ‘prioritise’ their social interactions in the lead up to Christmas.

He said that people should prioritise “only those things that really matter to them”, warning there is a risk that events that aren’t a “priority”, may stop people from attending things that are.

Boris Johnson stopped short of telling people not to socialise, saying: “We’re not cancelling events, we’re not closing hospitality, we’re not cancelling people’s parties or their ability to mix.

“What we are saying is: think carefully before you go.”

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So what are the symptoms to watch out for? Along with the familiar ones of a cough, temperature and change in smell and taste that are characteristic of previous Covid variants, the new Omicron variant is “rather different” and has some unique and new symptoms. ]

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Oxford professor Sir John Bell said people should look out for a sore throat, aching muscles particularly around the back, a stuffy nose, some stomach upset and loose stools as signs of having Omicron.

Sir John added that muscle pain in particular – known as myalgia – appears to be a “distinguishing feature” of Omicron.